- Flea Identification
Fleas are external parasites that live by feeding on blood from mammals and birds. Adult fleas are very small insects (about 1/16Ē to 1/8Ē long), dark reddish-brown and wingless. They are compressed from side to side allowing easy movement through the fur, hair or feathers of their host. They have three pairs of legs, and their longer back legs make them excellent jumpers. Fleas can jump thirteen feet horizontally and seven feet vertically. The fleaís body is hard and covered with hairs and spines projecting backward, and they have a piercing-sucking mouthpart used to obtain blood meals from a host.
- Types Of Fleas
The most frequently found flea in the world is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). Its primary host is the domestic cat, and it is also the most common flea found on domestic dogs. There is also a dog flea (Ctenocephalides canine) which looks like a cat flea but is not as common. Sticktight fleas (Echidnopaga gallinacea) can become problematic when pets frequent areas near poultry. These fleas attach themselves to the hostís eyes and ears. Other popular fleas are the human flea (Pulex irritans), the northern rat flea (Nosopsyllus fasciatus) and the oriental rat flea (Xenspsylla cheopis).
- Life Cycle
A fleaís life cycle consists of egg, larva, pupa and adult, and the entire cycle can vary from two weeks to eight months depending on species, humidity, temperature and food. (The life cycle of a cat flea up to adulthood at room temperature takes about eighteen days.) Normally, after the female has a blood meal, she will lay between fifteen to twenty oval, white eggs per day on the host. Once the eggs dry they will usually drop off the host where it rests (carpet, upholstered furniture, cat or dog boxes, etc.). Eggs hatch into white, worm-like larvae in two days to two weeks.
The flea larvae phase consists of three stages, which last a week to several months. The larvae mostly feed on the dried blood found in the fecal matter of the adult fleas which falls off the host. Larval development normally occurs in places where there is at least 75% humidity, and larvae develop more quickly in warmer temperatures (70? to 90?F).
Once the larval stage is completed, the larva spins a tiny, silken cocoon and pupates. The pupae is usually camouflage by local debris. The larva will mature to adulthood inside its cocoon in about five to fourteen days. Since the new flea can only live a week without a blood meal, it will remain in its cocoon until it detects a host through vibration (people or pets walking), pressure (a host laying down on them), noise, heat or carbon dioxide. This is one reason why a family returning to an unoccupied home after an extended period of time (a long vacation) may suddenly be attacked by a massive amount of fleas. Newly emerged fleas will jump on a host only minutes after leaving their cocoon and begin feeding. An adult cat flea will normally live for thirty to forty days.
- Habits Of Fleas
Fleas often breed most heavily where pets and other animals rest. Fleas may be found on pets throughout the year, but tend to be most problematic during spring and early summer. Pets infested with fleas are incessantly biting and scratching themselves. Humans are affected by flea bites differently depending on their sensitivity to the flea saliva. Fleas tend to bite humans on the ankles or lower leg and leave a small, red, itchy bump. People with allergies to the saliva, or flea allergic dermatitis (FAD), will experience extreme itching, and often a secondary infection is caused by the constant scratching.
- Medical Problems
Adult fleas are not only a nuisance to animals and humans, but they can cause serious medical problems. Pets with flea allergies (FAD) will have intense itching and may experience skin irritation and hair loss. Cat fleas and dog fleas may be intermediate hosts for the dog tapeworm. Both cats and dogs can acquire tapeworms while grooming themselves and ingesting a flea infected with a tapeworm cyst. Even children have been known to pick up tapeworms by accidentally consuming an infected flea. Fleas may even transmit the bubonic plague or murine typhus fever to rodents which in turn may pass it to humans.
- Indoor Flea Treatment
Until recently, the only treatments available to treat fleas contained dangerous insecticides. Even though these products are still available, they can be unsafe for some pets and small children. Fleabusters® Flea Shampoo is a safe and healthy way to kill the fleas on your dog or cat.
It is also imperative to treat your home, otherwise pets will quickly become infested again. Wash your petís bedding in hot water, and let it soak in soapy water for at least fifteen minutes. Thoroughly vacuum or steam clean any furniture, rugs and flooring, and dispose of the vacuum bag in an outside trash receptacle (and the water from the steam cleaner away from your home). When vacuuming, pay special attention to base boards, ventilators, under furniture and anywhere else fur and lint accumulate. Before vacuuming, treat your carpets and upholstery with environmentally safe Fleabusters® Rx for Fleas Plus® which, when used properly, will rid fleas for a year. If you still see fleas 48 hours after using the product, vacuum more frequently.
- Outdoor Flea Treatment
If your pet spends time outside, then you should treat your yard as well. Outdoor flea populations are the most common in hot, humid areas or places along the coast. Fleas tend to be prevalent in shaded areas where animals rest. Instead of a chemical insecticide, use Fleabusters® Nematodes. Itís a natural and safe way to rid your yard of fleas.
Prevention is the best way to manage fleas. Bathe your pet regularly with Fleabusters® Flea Shampoo (especially if your pet frequents infested animals or areas), and thoroughly clean your petís resting areas indoors and outdoors on a weekly basis. Keep your lawn trimmed and your yard fenced to keep out any infested animals.
- Dust Mites
Most homes have dust mites, but you would not notice these microscopic creatures unless you were allergic to them. Their allergen is their tiny body fragment and feces which are found in dust. Symptoms of a dust mite allergy include runny nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, stuffy ears, respiratory problems and asthma in severe cases. Dust mites primarily feed on our dead skin cells and animal dander. It can be difficult for pet lovers with dust mite allergies, because our petís dander is a food source for the dust mites.
Dust mites thrive in warm, humid areas (above 70?F and 50% humidity). They mostly live in our mattresses, upholstered furniture, carpets and pet bedding. Thorough and regular vacuuming along with using Fleabusters® Rx for Mites is a great formula for controlling dust and eliminating dust mites.