They’re very small, they hide well, they bite and suck blood, and they cause diseases. We’re talking about one of the most feared and hated pests that every pet owner should know about: FLEAS!

They’ve been around for millions of years with evidence of their existence dating back to the Mesozoic era — yes, there were already prehistoric fleas when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth. They are as much of a pest today as they probably were back then.

The main problem with fleas is that they are not that easy to detect and when you do, it’s often already a case of infestation. Unlike another common pest, the tick, a flea is extremely small. They can appear on your pet’s fur as small black pepper spots or like reddish-brown sesame seeds. There are over 2000 species of them, so it can vary slightly.

They hide well within thick coats of dogs and cats — but the best places to watch out for them would be along the rump and near the tail, in the underbelly, in the groin area and around the neck and ears. The first sign of a flea problem is when you see your pet scratching and biting.

How They Affect Pets

The incessant scratching and biting often leads to areas of raw skin that can easily get infected. Other issues that are often associated with a flea infestation include:

  • Flea allergy dermatitis
  • Tapeworm
  • Hemotropic Mycoplasmosis
  • Cat scratch disease

Life Cycle of Fleas

Understanding the life cycle of a flea is key to effective removal. What you usually see in pets like cats and dogs are the adult version of fleas.

The fleas in other stages of their lifecycle can happily survive and thrive in warmer places in your house such as pet beds, carpets, pillowcases and mattresses.

They start out as eggs which are laid by the adult while they are on your pet and these usually drop to the ground. The eggs develop into larvae. Both stages are very difficult to see. They eventually spin a cocoon and enter the pupae stage. They can remain as dormant as pupae for a long time — so if these are not eliminated at the time you do your first infestation control attempt, they can create another cycle of infestations.

Fleas break out of their pupae stage and emerge as adults in response to vibrations. It can be triggered by footsteps, the vacuum cleaner, carpet cleaners or more. The entire cycle takes between 3 to 4 weeks with the ideal conditions (warm and humid environment). So summer months have the higher instances of flea infestations.

It is important to remember that what you easily see — the adult versions — are often only 5% of the total population of fleas in your home. They are also a year-round problem.

Infestation Control

The first thing to address in case of a flea infestation would be the adults. They will lay eggs and will continue to suck the blood off your pet which they need for nutrition. There are many solutions available to control the spread of adult fleas in pets. Ask your vet for the best treatment for your pets. There are topical options for flea treatment such as Frontline, Advantage/Advocate and Revolution. There are also tablet treatments for dogs who swim or bathe often.

Eradicate the eggs, larvae and pupae with foggers and flea bombs that address this specific problem. Make sure you treat all your pets. Fleas have powerful hind legs that are designed to let them jump at least 80x their height — which makes transferring between one pet to another very easy.

Prevention is always easier than addressing the problem once it is already an infestation. The easiest way to do this is to make sure your pets are up-to-date on their monthly flea treatments.