Fleas can cause a number of diseases, allergies, medical problems and infections among pets as well as humans.
All pet owners dread a flea infestation. Apart from the discomfort they cause to our pets, they can spread severe epidemics like the bubonic plague and can cause a number of other diseases.
Pet owners and non-pet owners alike should have a good amount of knowledge about these insects, as they do bite humans and are vectors of viruses, protozoa and bacteria, and can cause a wide range of diseases, infections and allergies.
What are fleas?
Fleas are insects that are parasitic, feeding on blood of the hosts they inhabit. They are six-legged insects and their body structures flat and compressed enabling them to run between animal hairs and feathers and have hind legs that facilitate jumping long distances that are about 50 times their body length. They have four stages of growth – egg, larvae, pupa and adult, and usually grow to a full length of 3mm.
Adult fleas feed on fresh blood and their reproductive cycles begin after their first blood meal. The larvae feed on organic matter and the feces of the adult fleas that contain dried blood (Flea-dirt).
There are about 2,500 known species of fleas; however the most commonly found flea species is the Ctenocephalides felis, a cat flea that actually prefers dogs.
How to identify a flea infestation
While itching and scratching are indicators that a pet has a flea problem, a pet can have fleas in their fur even if there is no itching.
Fleas spend most of their life cycle off pets. Mostly fleas lay their eggs around the place where the pet sleeps. Apart from scratching, common indicators of flea infestations include a skin condition called Flea Allergy Dermatitis that affects pets with sensitive skin, or bald patches on the skin where the hair falls off due to incessant scratching.
Pet owners should regularly check the coat of their pets for fleas. Considering that fleas are very fast and almost indiscernible due to their reddish-brown color, pet owners can look for indicators like flea-dirt. These can be usually found on a dog’s rump or between a cats shoulder blade. To identify flea-dirt, one can take a damp paper towel and rub the area. Flea-dirt turns reddish when moist.
Are Fleas a Danger to Humans and Pets?
Fleas can cause a number of diseases, allergies, medical problems and infections among pets as well as humans. Fleas are known to cause Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), a type of skin condition, hair loss, secondary skin irritations, rashes, and inflammations, etc. caused due to saliva induced incessant scratching. A large flea infestation in puppies and kittens can cause anemia and can prove to be fatal. Fleas are also known to cause tapeworms among pets and can get transferred to children if any flea parts from the pet get accidentally consumed by children. Fleas are also known to spread the bubonic plague through rodents.