There may be few things pet owners dread more than flea infestations, both on their pets as well as around and in their home. They are undoubtedly the most common and irritating pest, being difficult to see and causing discomfort and illness in both our pets as well as ourselves. Perhaps even more frustrating is the fact that some fleas seem to be impervious to even the most thorough treatments–continuing to persist despite flea collars, sprays and medications.
Most individuals understand that fleas live by feeding on the blood of their host, which is also how they can infect their host with illness and disease. Some of the lesser known facts about fleas include the following:
● Female fleas are often larger than male fleas.
● After fleas emerge from their pupa stage, they have about seven days to find a blood meal or they die.
● Most fleas live for two to three months total.
● Female fleas normally begin to lay eggs within the first thirty-five to forty-eight hours of her first blood meal.
● A female flea is capable of laying roughly two thousand eggs during her lifetime.
● When feeding on blood, a female flea consumes about fifteen times her own body weight each day.
● As long as it doesn’t need to move around too much, a flea is able to live anywhere from sixty to more than one hundred days between blood meals.
● Fleas are wingless, and get onto their hosts by jumping–they can jump up to eight inches.
● Fleas can cause their pet host to develop anemia, tapeworms or even just intense itching.
● Pets can develop an allergy to flea saliva, which manifests itself through severe irritation and itching.
● There are more than two thousand different species of fleas around the world, and three hundred different species live in North America alone.
● Different flea species feed on specific host animal species the majority of the time.
Fortunately, better understanding fleas and the most common types of fleas that can affect your pet can help you to better prevent or resolve infestations.
Common Fleas that Affect Your Pet
1. The rabbit flea. This type of flea is often seen on wild and domesticated rabbits, but it can also affect dogs and cats. They may be found in their host’s fur, but are far more commonly found around the base of the ears. This can cause crusts and papules on and around the ear.
2. The Oriental rat flea. This flea prefers to feed off rat hosts, but will feed off dogs, cats and even humans if it is necessary to do so in order to sustain itself. It is a carrier of the bubonic plague, as it can bite an infected rodent and then bite a human or other animal, thus spreading the disease.
3. The dog flea. This flea can live on dogs, cats, humans and even other animals–it is often found on wild raccoons and opossums, as well as livestock. The dog flea is a carrier of the tapeworm parasite, making it particularly troublesome.
4. The cat flea. The cat flea is, by far, the most common parasite found on domesticated cats and dogs in North America, and it can also affect humans. Adult cat fleas prefer to remain on a single host, and often only switch hosts accidentally.
Due to the irritation and potential health effects of fleas, it is important for pet owners to take action in order to prevent and resolve flea infestations. It can be incredibly helpful to check with your pet’s veterinarian in order to determine the best way to go about flea prevention, as different areas of the country may suffer from different types of flea problems that can be successfully handled in a very specific way. Due to the flea life cycle and the fact that some agents which kill adult fleas may not kill flea eggs, it is important to recognize that flea prevention is an ongoing task, but certainly far easier than handling flea infestations.