Fleas are small, flightless insects about 1/8" long with a body that is flattened laterally. They are a reddish-brown color with six legs and are 1/12" to 1/6" long. They can carry disease and transfer tapeworms into warm-blooded mammals.
These insects are classified as one of if not the most common ectoparasites (external parasites) because fleas will attach themselves to the fur/hair of their host and bite the skin to drink their blood. While fleas will transport onto any warm-blooded mammal, they most commonly live on dogs, cats, and rodents. Humans are not a preferred host, but will do if there is nothing else. Similar unto ticks, who also prefer animals, such as cats or dogs.
There are two main types of fleas that account for the majority of infestations. Cat fleas and Dog fleas. Cat fleas are by far the most common flea. Dog fleas by contrast will not typically be found on cats, but can be found on rabbits.
Fleas will live up to 2-3 months on average, and within that period, a female flea can lay approximately 2,000 eggs. Because fleas thrive on the blood of animals, it’s important to check areas where your pets may frequent for signs of fleas, such as a dog house or cat bed, to prevent further infestation.
You should pay attention to fleas for several reasons.
First, they carry disease. Fleas are the most common transmitters of the now-rare bubonic plague. Other infections fleas may pass on include typhus and cat scratch fever.
Typhus, or more specifically murine typhus, can be spread through infected fleas as well. Like plague, flea-borne typhus is rare in the United States. However, it is more likely to be found in warm climates like Hawaii, southern California, and Texas. Symptoms of murine typhus occur after about 2 weeks from the infection date, and can include fever, body aches, nausea, and rash.
Cat scratch fever, a bacterial infection found worldwide, can be transferred to humans through the scratch of an infected cats. Cats can become infected with this disease through fleas. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes and muscular pain.
While the chance of developing these diseases from flea bites are extremely low, fleas should still be treated as seriously as if they were dangerous, to prevent any chance of harm. Additionally, animals and humans alike may have allergic reactions to fleas, some symptoms of which can include swelling, itching, hives, and rashes.
Second, fleas transfer tapeworms. If a tapeworm-infected flea chooses your pet as its host, it is highly likely that your pet will swallow the flea while grooming. Once swallowed, the tapeworm larvae will latch itself onto your pet’s intestines and develop into an adult tapeworm. Tapeworms, even when fully grown, do not normally cause serious health problems for your pet, and it is unusual for humans to catch a tapeworm from the animals in their house. When fully grown, tapeworms can cause irritation on your pet’s skin, especially near the anus. Your pet can be treated for tapeworm at the veterinarian’s office.
At this point, you might be asking yourself, “what should I do to make sure fleas don’t become a problem in my home?”
First, take preventative measures to minimize potential infestation. Keep your yard mowed and trimmed, groom your pets regularly, and make sure your house is clean - especially the carpets.
If you already have a flea infestation, BioShield can help. We will provide you with a free home inspection from our team of local professionals, and our available green products are healthy for the environment but will effectively treat pests. Contact us for a consultation today.