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Controlling Dog and Cat Fleas

Updated on May 21, 2015

Flea Eggs


Flea Bites

Dealing with flea's

Being in the pest control industry for over twenty plus years fleas are a popular insect that can drive pets, pet owners, and others crazy with bites and infestations. Fleas are a tiny insect that are wingless and they undergo a complete metamorphosis. Fleas are part of Siphonaptera order of insects. It is reported that there are over 1,600 varieties of flea species in the world, some ninety five percent of these are associated with mammals; the remaining five percent are associated with birds.

Fleas in general are a nuisance but some fleas can transmit serious diseases such as the bubonic plague or murine typhus mainly through flea bites. In the western part of the United States and some other parts of the world the rat flea has been a health issue spreading the plague causing bacterium, this has been on the news on and off for the past several years. Other fleas are also host for dogs and rodents tapeworms which is an intestinal parasite which can be transmitted to both pets and humans.

The most common flea that is found world wide is the cat flea. This species of flea is a parasite of both cats and dogs but as well as opossums, foxes, coyotes, deer and other warm-blooded animals. The cat flea will also attack humans besides animals. The cat fleas are most common during the summer, but I have seen cat fleas active in homes in the dead of winter even in the northern states. Here in Florida cat fleas are active all year long, but in the north part of Florida we do get heavy frost that will slow down flea activity.

Let’s take a look at the development and the description of cat fleas since they are what most people deal with here in the United States. The cat flea is extremely tiny, the adult flea is around 0.08 inches long and after the larvae passes through the three instars it will grow to about 3/16th of an inch long. So you can see you have to have great eyes or use a magnifying glass to see the fleas. The cat flea has extremely long and powerful legs which aids them in jumping great distances for their size. Fleas can jump up to fifteen inches horizontally which makes it easy for them to jump from one host to another.

Cat fleas feed on blood of warm blooded animals, the adult flea needs a blood meal in order for the female to produce eggs. Over the lifetime of the female cat flea she will produce approximately 450 eggs which are laid in batches of three to eighteen at a time. The eggs will be laid in the hair of the host and will drop off before hatching. During the best conditions of heat and humidity the eggs will hatch in one to six days. When the eggs do hatch they will be small, hairy, and eyeless and whitish in color called the larvae stage.

The larval stage will last between seven and twenty one day’s. The larval prefer to be in carpeted rooms and prefer to stay close to where the pet likes to lay. After the larvae stage the immature fleas will spin themselves a cocoon, this cocoon gets covered with debris in order to camouflage them from their enemy. They will stay in this stage for seven to fourteen days then they will mature into an adult flea. At this stage they will be inactive in a pupal case for up to a year, while in the pupal stage they are protected from enemies and environmental conditions. Increased temperatures and physical contact with will help to stimulate the adult fleas to emerge from their cocoon. After they have come out of the cocoon they will generally live from twenty five to sixty days.

Knowing these time tables will help in managing and treating for fleas in the home and on your pet. Cleaning, treating, bathing, having your pet treated by a professional all depends on the timetable of the egg, larvae, and adult cycle. If you can have the treatments done to during the correct cycle of the fleas you will have a better opportunity to get control of the flea population.

For better management and control of flea it is best to do a thorough inspection to determine where the infestation is coming from, whom is the host, the host sleeping habits and areas of resting, and any environment issues of where the infestation is at. In my years in the business I have seen many odd and crazy issues with fleas. I will tell you about a couple of them here so you can get an idea that may help you with your flea issues.

Most people think of pets and flea issues, but I have had several instances where the home owner did not have any pets but they had a house full of fleas. When you run across a situation like this you really have to put on your thinking cap to find out where the fleas are coming from. In all of these situations the fleas were coming from birds, one situation the bird came into the basement of the home and died, another one is where the bird came into the garage and died, and another time is where there was a bird’s nest in a chimney. In all of these instances the birds had the fleas on them and then the fleas came off the host and infected the home.

Another situation is when a flea infested raccoon moved in and took residence under a mobile home. The fleas loved this area because it was protected, the ground was cool and damp, and the raccoon had a litter of pups which added more host for the fleas to feed on. The family cat went under the home and the fleas migrated over to the cat and then the cat brought the fleas into the home.

There are hundreds if not thousands of ways to get a flea infestation, what I want to talk about now is what to do after you find out you have fleas in your home.

The number one thing to do if you find that you have fleas in the home is to have your pet treated at the time you have the home treated. If you do not have your pet treated by a professional you will have a hard time eradicating the flea infestation. What you will want to do is inspect your pet if he or she is scratching excessively, losing patches of fur, or developing scabs. Part the hair on the animal and you may see the little flea running for cover. Several people try to treat their animal with home remedies like bathing your pet and applying apple cider vinegar to the coat of the pet. Other people will try oral medication like Frontline, Capstar, or Advantage. But I recommend having your pet treated by a professional.

The next thing you need to do is machine-wash ALL bedding (including the bedding of your pet), rugs and all other fabrics in hot soapy water. This will reduce the number of eggs and larvae on these items. While washing all the bedding you will need to vacuum the whole home, including all furniture, carpets and rugs. Vacuuming will not only suck up fleas, pupae, larvae and eggs, it will also cause the insects to hatch from the cocoons. This is very important – make sure that you take the vacuum out of the home and take the vacuum bag out of the vacuum and seal it in a garbage bag and make sure that you don’t bring it back into the home. Vacuum every day for seven days, and remember to take the vacuum bag out of the home each time. If you don’t remove the bag you may reinfest the home with fleas again.

If you continue to have fleas after this you may need to seek professional help from a professional pest control person.

In conclusion I hope this article will be of help to you. We all can agree that fleas are a huge pain to both you and your pets. They can be a huge health risk and an irritant to everybody. Hopefully you can find some useful information in this article that will help you get rid of these pesky pest.


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