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Your Pets: A Flea's Favorite Snack

Updated on September 25, 2015

Flea And Rat

I killed a third of 14th Century  Europe's population. Even William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth were nervous.
I killed a third of 14th Century Europe's population. Even William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth were nervous.
Hey, Buddy, don't take all of the credit. After all, it was my granddad who gave yours a ride.
Hey, Buddy, don't take all of the credit. After all, it was my granddad who gave yours a ride.

Bubonic Plague, Complements Of Fleas And Rats

A parasite cannot survive on its own. It requires a host to feed and sustain it. Some parasites have parasites. The flea is an excellent example of this fact.

Throughout history, populations have been devastated by a bacterial infection known as the “plague” or the “black death”. During Queen Elizabeth 1’s reign the "bubonic plague" killed about 1/3 of Europe’s population. Although outbreaks have been less frequent, Africa and the United States are two of the many countries who have recently reported cases.

“Bubonic plague" gets its name from the “buboes” that appear under the victim’s arms neck and groin. It originates with fleas that live on infected rats. Once the disease has a foot hold on a population, it is transferred in the same manner as the common cold or flu, i.e. through air born droplets discharged from the victim’s mouth and nose. Untreated, the “black plague” kills about 50% of those infected.

Although the rat is king when it comes to hosting Xenopsylla cheopis or the “rat flea”, mice, camels, chipmunks, prairie dogs, rabbits, and squirrels also provide breeding grounds for these unwelcome pests. Plague needs filth and squalor to develop, thus sanitation and pest control are the best defenses

Garbage removal is one of the most important preventatives against plague. Accumulated refuse attracts rats, who in turn transport fleas, some of which can carry the plague bacteria. If one of these fleas bite you, you will be dealing with much more than an uncomfortable itch. Fortunately, bubonic plague can be treated with modern antibiotics.

Land Fill

Oh, give me a home where the rats and fleas roam, and I'll show you how to get plague
Oh, give me a home where the rats and fleas roam, and I'll show you how to get plague

Various Animals

So Many Choices, So Little Time!
So Many Choices, So Little Time! | Source

There's More Kinds Of Fleas Than You Can Shake A Stick At

There is a flea for almost everyone. There are fleas that prefer dogs. Some that like cats. Others that like bigger animals, like horses, elephants, hogs, and anything else they can reach with a good jump. The avian world has specialized fleas of its own. Even mankind can boast of being the favorite snack of one particular species, creatively named “the human flea”.

A female flea can lay between 40 and 100 eggs a day. These microscopic beauties can hatch in your pet’s fur, in your carpet, or just about anywhere they happen to land. They live on blood, and if they can’t have the kind they prefer, they’ll resort to what’s on hand.

Fleas come in many varieties. In fact, 2000 species have been identified. 300 of these blood sucking insects are found in North America, and if I had to hazard a guess, I would say at least half of them have sampled my roommate’s cats. Happily enough, I must not taste that good. However, SQ is quite to their liking, and has been bitten a few (scratch, scratch) times.

In the United States, approximately 300 flea species have been identified. 2000 have been identified world wide. I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping the rest of the world will keep the 1700 species we don’t have to themselves. They can also keep their mosquitoes and snakes.

The Biography Of A Killer

Dog And Cat

Some fleas enjoy a nice, juicy dog
Some fleas enjoy a nice, juicy dog
Some prefer a nice tender cat
Some prefer a nice tender cat

Don't Want Plague? Don't Worry! Fleas Provide Plenty Of Other Diseases To Choose From!

Fleas can kill your pet. This summer, my roommate and I found a kitten being eaten alive. The fleas covered him from head to tail, and gave him a severe case of anemia from which his vet was sure he would not recover. Fortunately, SQ nurtured him back to health, and he is now as active and obnoxious as his brothers and sisters.

Various kinds of parasites live in fleas. Tape worms are just an example of the gifts that a flea can transfer to you and your pet through their saliva. These little beauties live in your pet’s digestive tract, and reproduce by shedding segments called proglottids. If your pet is infected, the worms will be visible in their feces.

Other flea born parasites include Parasitic Dermatitis. This is your pet’s allergic reaction to substances contained in the flea’s saliva. If your pet has Itchy, inflamed skin and papules, he could have a serious flea problem, and should go to the vet immediately.

Barton Ella is a bacteria that can cause a variety of diseases, including cat scratch fever. Any animal that can host a flea is subject to infection. Fortunately, the resulting illness can be cured with antibiotics. Barton Ella invades red blood cells and uses the cell's membrane as protection while multiplying.

Rickettsia is another parasite that fleas can pass along to you or your pet. Again, antibiotics can help get rid of these infections, but the kind your doctor or your pet’s vet will prescribe will depend on the strain that shows up in a lab test.

Among the other interesting illnesses these versatile bugs offer are Rocky Mountain spotted fever, flea-borne spotted fever, and good old fashioned typhus.

It is interesting to realize that a creature the size of a pencil point can harbor so much life. It isn’t interesting enough to make an infestation fun, but since we have the infestation, we may as well have the facts. The illnesses that start with flea bites should put flea prevention, and their extermination at the top of anyone’s to do list.

Fleas can't fly, they jump. If we could jump as high in comparrison, we could leap a football field in a single bound. That would put a new spin on Monday night football, wouldn't it?

Non Toxic Flea Killers

Salt 'em and dry 'em out
Salt 'em and dry 'em out
Borax, its as good an insecticide as it is a laundry soap
Borax, its as good an insecticide as it is a laundry soap
Little prehistorical sea shells that kill modern fleas
Little prehistorical sea shells that kill modern fleas

Got Bees In Your Bonnet? No, But I Have Fleas In My Carpet

Fleas are tenacious. They are hard to evict once they’ve taken up residence in your pet’s fur, and in your carpet and upholstery. Here are some natural remedies that will help get them out of your home.

Noah could have saved us a lot of grief with just two well aimed swats. Since he resisted that noble impulse, we have turned to chemicals to rid ourselves of these pests. The pests, in turn, have developed immunity to our poisons. We, however, have not developed such immunity, and we pollute the environment with each puff we spray from an aerosol can. Sometimes, bug sprays and bombs are the quickest and best ways to solve the problem.

Salt: Sprinkle finely milled table salt all over your carpet. Let it sit for 24 to 48 hours, then vacuum it up. Salt dehydrates the little blood suckers, and sends them back to the Celestial Barbecue Pit, or wherever else they came from.

Diatomaceous earth: This substance is composed of ancient sea creatures whose sharp little shells cut our nasty six legged invaders to ribbons. You can hear them screaming for mercy while you sleep. Oh, no. I’m sorry. That was me screaming for mercy. I won’t tell you what I said, but anyone who has ever had an itch that can’t be easily reached can imagine.

Apply this remedy the same way you would apply salt. Let it set overnight, and vacuum it up the next day. Make sure the diatomaceous earth you use is food grade. You aren’t supposed to eat it, but you don’t want the same stuff you would use in your swimming pool. It just won’t work.

20 Mule Team Borax: You know, the stuff your Mom used to put in the laundry? Well, fleas don’t like it because it does the same thing salt does, which is suck the liquid out of their nasty little bodies. Leave it on the treated surface for 24 to 48 hours. It is quicker than salt, but is a little more risky. After all, your 4 legged friends are a lot closer to the ground then we are, and you wouldn’t want them to breathe anything but pure sweet oxygen.

Vacuum: This is something you will have to do frequently, no matter what you apply to the fleas’ hiding places. You should do it, both before and after the treatment. You should also dispose of the vacuum bag or thoroughly clean out the canister each time you sweep so the fleas can’t hop out later and start the next generation. And, in case you haven’t figured this out, clean your vacuum outside in case one of the convicts escapes. After all, she could be pregnant, and you sure don’t want to inspire new generations of her progeny.

With any of these remedies, you will get the best results if you take a broom and work the powder into the flea ridden surfaces. One mama flea can lay up to 100 eggs a day, and it only takes twenty or so days for those babies to grow into adults that can lay up to 100 eggs a day. Before you know it, you can have more fleas than New York has people. Your poor cat or dog can turned into a flea condominium in a very short time if you don’t get right on top of the problem.

A flea can live about 100 days. They prefer hot, humid conditions, and like dark places. This is why they are especially attracted to your pet's eyes, ears and anal areas. They can live without food for up to 60 days, and can survive winter on indoor pets, in warm garages and barns. This is why they are able to greet you in the spring after a long, cold winter.

Monkey Picking Fleas Off Dog

Gee, thanks, Chita
Gee, thanks, Chita

Finding Fleas When They've Found Your Pet

If your pet spends any time outdoors, he probably has fleas.

If he plays with, or is exposed to other animals, there is a strong possibility he has been infected.

If he has black dots on his skin, he is hosting fleas. Those dots are his blood, which has been turned into flea poop.

If he is constantly scratching himself, not only does he have fleas, but he is allergic to them.

Even if he isn’t allergic, it is important to make sure he is protected from these parasites. Not all dogs and cats scratch flea bites. However, that doesn’t mean the vicious insects aren’t eating him alive.

Here are some remedies that might help:

Cut up a couple of fresh lemons. Bring water to a boil, and pour it over the lemons. Allow it to sit overnight. Using a sponge or wash cloth, Dowse your pet’s fur, being careful to keep it away from his face. Run a flea comb through his fur to remove fleas. Dump the fleas in a mixture of Dawn dish washing soap and water to make sure they’re dead. Next flush them down the toilet.

Mix 1/ cup of either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar into a quart of water and thoroughly spray your pet’s coat. Run a flea comb through his fur, and put the fleas into a mixture of Dawn dish washing liquid, and flush them down the toilet.

Mix 3 drops of essential oil (lavender, cedar, oregano) with several teaspoons of water, or olive oil and apply the mixture to a bandana. Tie the bandana around your pet’s neck. Also, place a few drops at the base of his tail.

These remedies won’t kill the fleas, but they will work as a repellant. Besides, wouldn’t it be fun to have a dog that smells like a spaghetti dinner? Cats don’t like the smell of citrus, so you might opt to pickle your puss’ fleas with vinegar instead. In any event, save enough for yourself, because you’ll have to catch her.


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