Frequently asked questions about fleas
What are fleas?
Fleas are parasites that feed by sucking the blood of hosts, be that animals or humans.
How long do fleas live for?
The complete flea life cycle, from egg to larva to pupa (cocoon) to adult, normally takes about 15 days. However, under certain adverse conditions, for instance, lack of a suitable host or very cold temperatures, the pupa stage may become dormant. Thus extending the average flea life cycle from bewteen six to 12 months to well beyond a year.
There are exceptions to every rule and it is worthy of note that human fleas can live for up to two years.
How do I know if my pet has fleas?
You will pick up on the fact that your pet is constantly scratching and upon closer examination you will find black specks of flea dirt in their coat.
Can an indoor-only cat catch fleas?
Yes it can. They will come from other animals or humans in the household who have been outside and have come in contact with an animal with fleas.
Are fleas only present in dirty homes?
Fleas don't care if a house is clean or dirty. The only way to effectively stop fleas is to use preventative flea repellant treatments on your pets, in the home and outside surrounds.
Will cold weather kill fleas?
Adult fleas will die if exposed to temperatures under 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold weather doesn't kill fleas that are sheltered from cold. Fleas in the formative part of the flea cycle as in eggs, larvae and cocoon stages can survive winter, but tend to lie dormant.
Can I stop worrying about fleas and ticks once it starts getting cold?
Flea prevention should be used on your pets all year round because winter weather does not kill adult fleas, unless we are talking under 40 degrees Fahrenheit, as stated above. Fleas thrive in warm centrally heated houses and in particular houses with windows that absorb warm sun be it winter or summer.
Can fleas fly?
No, fleas cant fly, however what they can do is jump. They have an amazing ability to jump large distances with the greatest of ease - giving the appearance of flying.
Fleas can jump vertically up to 7 inches (18 cm), and horizontally up to 13 inches (33 cm.) You may well wonder how it is possible for such small insects to be able to accomplish such amazing feats of acrobatics.
Fleas have strong legs, plus they also have their own built-in launching pads or spring-boards. These launching pads are made of a special kind protein called "resilin". Just prior to jumping, fleas compress the resilin and as they jump they release it. This release mechanism has the effect of projecting fleas in an upward or forward direction towards their target.
Fleas use humans and pets as their personal transport systems, not only to get from A to B, but for food in the form of fresh blood along the way. Fleas have an insidious way of finding their way to all kinds of nooks and crannies in homes, e.g. curtains, carpets and furniture.
Can humans get fleas?Yes, humans are all too frequently the target of fleas that have been brought into the family home by unprotected pets. Unprotected pets are invaded by fleas, either caught from feral animals during their walks or those found in yards and gardens. Please refer to our segments on Fleas on People and Fleas on Pets.
What's the best way to treat human flea bites?
Unfortunately, there isn't a one size fits all remedy to ease the intense itching and swelling from flea bites.
Some people like to take a preventative approach and use tried and tested methods, for instance, Avon-Skin-So-Soft soap or bath oil.
Others who have already been bitten get relief from dabbing bites with vinegar or lemon juice, and or applying hydrocortisone cream or tee tree oil. One of the most effective remedies is to have a word with your local pharmacist and ask which is the best over the counter antihistamine tablet available for flea bites.
Action is the key word here, if you catch the bites early enough antihistamine tablets and or liquids (benedryl) will stop the swelling and the itching.
Can't I just deal with a flea problem when and if it happens?
As with most things in life whether you take preventative measures or not is your choice. That said, if you have pets which you take for regular walks, or are allowed to go out side, then sooner rather than later you will end up with fleas on your pets, and in and around your home.
Getting rod of fleas and controlling an already existing flea problem can be expensive and time consuming, in addition to anxiety and misery will put your pets through.
There are many low cost and effective preventative flea treatments are available, and if you would like to take the natural approach please visit our segments on Stop the Fleas Products and Home Flea Remedies.
How do I control fleas?
Fleas will hang around as long as you allow them to and unfortunately there are no short cuts to getting rid of fleas.
Your approach should always be three-pronged - please refer to our three step solution to eliminating your flea infestation.
At the same time as attending to your pet you must treat inside and outside your home. A quick fix is to call in your local pest control specialist - if you ring around you will find one that specialises in non toxic treatments for domestic pets.
At Stop the Fleas Blog we specialise in promoting "all natural treatments" which are completely safe for Children, pets and plants. There are many remedies you can make at home, please see our segment on Home Flea Remedies and in addition to home remedies, we also promote 64 natural products for treating your pets and home in our Stop the Fleas Products segment.
What are the dangers of fleas on my pets?
Fleas can cause serious medical problems in cats and dogs including flea allergy dermatitis, hair loss (due to scratching), tapeworms, and secondary skin irritations called "hot spots". In large numbers, fleas can cause anaemia in puppies and kittens and young cats/dogs through loss of blood.
What is the best treatment for cats & dogs with flea allergy dermatitis?
The best way to treat your cat or dog for flea allergy dermatitis is the same as for all kinds of allergies - its called "avoidance". Get rid of fleas in and around your home and start your dog on a preventative flea control program immediately.
In addition, please make an appointment to have your pet checked out by your family vet. It will require "immediate treatment" to take away the intense itchiness and any inflammation present - time is of the essence here.
How do I use my flea comb to check for fleas?
Its a good idea to start where fleas like to hide, these are around the head and hindquarters of your dog. If you manage to capture a flea the best way to dispose of it is to drown it in water or medical alcohol.
What is the difference between Insect Development Inhibitors (IDIs) and Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs)?
IDIs and IGRs are used in monthly flea prevention products to eliminate the immature form of fleas. IDIs inhibit the synthesis of chitin - the outside, protective "shell" of the flea. And IGR's mimics the juvenile growth hormone of fleas, having the effect of inhibiting the juveniles from maturing into an adult fleas. In short the juveniles fail to molt and die.
IDIs and IGRs don't kill adult fleas, so to be most effective they should be used together with an adulticide. Because IDIs and IGRs mimic insect growth hormones, they are perfectly safe for humans.
Why do fleas keep coming back year after year?
Fleas will stick around as long as you allow them to. The fact that you think they come back every year indicates that you haven't been thorough enough with your methods of eradication. Flea cocoons throughout your home can remain dormant for months, and they are also pretty resilient to most commercial insecticides.
If you have pets and you allow them to go outside then you must use flea protection for every day of the year. We recommend Flea Discs because they last for up to 4 years.
Eradicating fleas is always a 3 pronged approach:
- Treat your pet/s, see Stop the Fleas Products.
- Treat the inside of your home, see carpets, curtains, beds and furniture, also see Home Flea Remedies and Stop the Fleas Products.
- Treat the outside of your home, see lawns and yards, see Home Flea Remedies and Stop the Fleas Products.
This article and information forms part of the Carole's Doggie World Holistic Library and is presented for informational purposes only.The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local vet. Instead, the content offers the reader information researched and written by Carole Curtis for www.carolesdoggieworld.com