Everyone knows about fleas, but is it really known how dangerous they can possibly be? To most people they may seem like nothing more than a nuisance, but flea infestations can turn deadly. In order to beat them, you must first understand them. Knowing your enemy is half the battle! Once you have some solid info on this pesky parasite, you can start working on getting them off your pet and out of your life.
Understanding the Flea…
Fleas are the most common external parasite of companion animals. There are approximately 1900 species of flea worldwide, but there is only one flea of importance to pet owners; the cat flea. In almost 100% of the cases, this is the flea which affects the animal. And although the name implies it only affects the cat, this flea is not very selective about its host. It infects dogs, and cats among other species.
A/ The Life Cycle:
Egg– Eggs are initially laid on the animal’s fur and then fall off into the environment.
Larvae– Larvae develop within the animal’s environment and live off of adult flea feces (blood) that also falls off of the animal as well.
Pupae– Larvae then become pupae, which can lie dormant for months.
Unfed Flea– Pupae become fleas which are mobile and can survive a few days without a host. If there is an animal in this environment, the new fleas begin feeding within hours of finding them.
Fed Flea– Once the flea has fed off of a host, the flea cannot survive long without feeding.
B/ Popular Questions…
“Can pets get fleas if they only live indoors? “-Yes, they can still get fleas! Furthermore, the well established temperature in a home environment actually helps fleas to thrive.
“If my pet has a flea infestation, wouldn’t the fleas also be biting me?” Humans are not normally bitten due to the fact that fleas do not prefer human blood; it is their last choice for a blood meal. Fleas will only bite humans if necessary and usually when the flea population is fairly high.
“If my pet has fleas, wouldn’t I see them?” Many times all you will see is the skin inflammation caused by the fleas. The reason the fleas themselves may not be visible is because animals are very fastidious groomers and will normally quickly lick away any irritants, such as live fleas.
“Can fleas survive in my home with hardwood only floors?”- Even without carpets to hide in, fleas can still live successfully in a home with hardwood only floors. Furthermore, they actually love developing within the cracks between the boards.
“Why is it recommended to purchase flea products through my veterinarian as opposed to the pet store?” –Flea products are now mainly directed through veterinary clinics. This arrangement allows products to be available through trained personnel who can explain how these products should or should not be used. Veterinarians can also have more input as to which product(s) their patients should be using.
“Why do I see fleas on my pet 3 weeks after applying a once a month topical flea product?”- Seeing fleas does not mean that the product is not working. In the first 20 or so days after applying the product, the topical medication will kill the fleas before they have a chance to bite your pet. In the last few days, the product will not kill them as quickly. It is not recommended to reapply the product, as this can produce a resistance to the topical medication.
The Dangers of Fleas:
Now that you have a good understanding of fleas, you can start focussing on what real damage they can actually cause:
*Inflammation: Inflammation of the skin due to flea bite allergies.
*Anemia: Anemia due to heavy flea infestations. *Feline Infectious Anemia: A parasite of the blood which can be life threatening. It is carried by fleas.
*Cat Scratch Fever: This disease does not make the cat ill, but the infected cat can make a person sick.
*Tapeworm: Internal parasite spread through fleas. *Bites to Humans: Humans are not the fleas preferred host, but they will bite if necessary, usually when the flea population is high. *Death: Fleas can be lethal in heavy infestations. The cause of death is blood loss over a long period of time. Young, small and geriatric animals are more at risk.
Fleas can be difficult to control, but why? Even though the adult flea is causing the symptoms in your pet, most of its population is actually found off of your pet. The majority of the flea population (eggs, larvae, pupae) are normally found within the animal’s environment. The best way to control fleas is to use a flea product which not only targets the adult fleas, but the various stages of its lifecycle.
In the past, flea products typically consisted of sprays, baths and powders. These days, flea products are much easier and safer to use, as well as more effective. Some of these new products are also advantageous in that they combine multiple levels of protection for your pet against more than just one parasite!
*Common Flea Products: Comfortis, Trifexus, Revolution, Advantage, Program, Sentinel, Frontline and Capstar are some examples of well known flea/parasite control products.* If you would like to know the availability of these products through the Lansdowne Animal Hospital, please feel free to contact us.
Since fleas are more than just annoying, try to really understand them before you try eradicating them. By understanding a bit of why they can be so difficult to get rid of, you may be able to beat them much easier. By knowing the dangers of fleas and using new flea control products, you can spend less time worrying and more time enjoying your pet!