Fleas – The Essential Facts

 

Think fleas are just a summer problem? Not so but somehow this myth persists despite our best efforts. Arm yourself by reading our primer and learning all the things flea that your mother never taught you.

 

  • Fleas and their predecessors have been around since the Cretaceous era (65 million years ago).

  • Fleas used to be bigger (Up to 2 cm long). Today’s fleas are smaller (1.5 to 3.2 mm) but more athletic.

  • Fleas don’t have wings, but they can jump 50 to 100 times their body length.

  • Some people have theorized that humans evolved their hairlessness not just to attract a mate and cope with life on the hot savannahs but also as an adaptation to rid themselves of fleas and other external parasites.

  • The flea life cycle has four stages (egg, larvae, pupae and adult). More than half of the fleas in your house are eggs. That means for every adult you see, there are 100 more preadults waiting to emerge.

  • Fleas need a blood meal to reproduce.

  • Once a flea is on your pet, it will rarely leave since it needs to feed every 12 hours.

  • Once a flea has fed for 24 hours it will die of starvation within 2 – 4 days without a blood meal.

  • Fleas might bite you, but they are species specific and can’t survive on human blood alone

  • Adult fleas may need blood, but their larvae can survive on anything from dead bugs to poop to vegetable matter.                  

  • Fleas are hardy. They have a dormant stage in which preemergent adults can survive in a cocoon for up to 5 months

  • Fleas can’t survive out in the snow and cold, but they do just fine in your home or on a warm and furry host, even outdoors.

  • In your home, the flea life cycle can complete in 12 – 26 days.  

  • Fleas carry diseases such as Plague, Typhus, Cat Scratch Fever and Mycoplasma haemofelis (which effects the red blood cells in cats causing anemia and fever).

  • Fleas also transmit one of the more common tapeworms that plague pets.

  • Many pets are allergic to flea saliva and develop a severe dermatitis from as little as one bite.

  • The best way to deal with flea problems is prevention. Keep your pet on a quality anti-parasitic product all year.

  • If you already have a flea infestation at home, consult your veterinarian. The products and science of flea prevention and treatment change very quickly. Your veterinarian can make sure you get the best, less environmentally impactful product available.

Davenport IA, Veterinarian Talks Explains Diseases You Could Share With Your Pet…but Shouldn’t

 

According to the AVMA, in 2007 there were 72 million pet dogs, 82 million pet cats and over 4 million pet birds. At least 3% of the US households own a reptile. Almost one half of those pet owners consider their pets to be a member of the family. We are a pet loving country. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that we can share more than love with our pets. Did you know that according to the Center for Disease Control that almost 14% of the US population has been infected with Toxacara (roundworm of dogs and cats). That’s because up to 30% of dogs fewer than 6 months of age and 25% of all cats are infected with roundworms.

Cats and dogs can carry Roundworms, Tapeworms, Hookworms, Leptospirosis, Ringworm and Rabies to name a few. Pocket pets and reptiles can carry Salmonella. Birds can also carry Salmonella as well as Psittacosis (a bacterial disease).

Who is most at risk? According to our friends at CAPC (Companion Animal Parasite Council), it is generally those who come in contact with the soil the most often. That includes, gardeners, plumbers, sunbathers and of course children. Immune compromised individuals need to be particularly careful.

So should we get rid of all of our pets? No need to get so carried away. Following are some relatively simple measures you can take to control the risk of zoonotic transmission in your family.

  1. Wash your hands after handling pets, soil and feces. Be especially vigilant with youngsters.
  2. Don’t eat or smoke while you handle your pet. Especially if it is a reptile, bird or pocket pet.
  3. Pets and food preparation do not go together.
  4. Keep your pets on a regular schedule of deworming. Dogs and cats should be on broad spectrum, year round anti-parasitic products.
  5. Get annual fecal parasite checks. That’s because you may give your pet his preventative but he may either spit it out or throw it up later on.
  6. Treat pets and their surroundings for fleas.
  7. Dispose of pet feces on a daily basis.
  8. Cover up your children’s sandbox when it’s not in use.
  9. Feed only cooked, canned or dry dog and cat food.
  10. Don’t allow birds or reptiles to roam loose in the house.
  11. If you are scratched by your pet, wash the area thoroughly.
  12. Vaccinate. Yes, there is some risk (1/10,000) of soft tissue sarcomas in cats with the use of Rabies and Feline Leukemia vaccines. We try to make it safer by vaccinating every 3 years. However, our biggest concern is that Rabies is out there and it kills all of us all the time.
  13. Immune compromised individuals should not own reptiles or amphibians.
  14. Don’t let your dog or cat drink from the toilet bowl. According to CAPC this can spread human adapted strains of parasites to pets

Davenport, Iowa Veterinarian Itching to teach you about Fleas

 

Who hates fleas?  Everybody hates fleas!  Ctenocephalides canis or felis better known as the common flea is not a visitor anyone ever welcomes to their home.  For those of us who have had to deal with a flea infestation- once is definitely enough! Aside from the obvious “yuck” factor, there are a lot of good reasons to avoid this hopping, biting scourge of the insect world.

  1.  Fleas make their living by biting other animals and feeding on their blood.  When fleas bite they inject saliva into the skin of their host which can cause inflammation, itching, allergic dermatitis and hair loss.  Even worse, if the host is small enough or the number of fleas’ large enough, anemia can result from blood loss.
  2. Fleas don’t just bite your pet.  They bite you.  They bite your children.  Everybody gets itchy.
  3. A single female flea can lay up to 50 eggs each day and up to 2000 eggs in her short life time!!!  Of course by the time you discover that your pet has fleas, there are most likely eggs and larva throughout your home.
  4. Fleas act as a transport vehicle for the aptly named “Flea” tapeworm.  Pets ingest fleas as they groom.  Once the flea is in the digestive system, the larva breaks free and finds a home in your pet’s intestines. An adult tapeworm can grow up to 75 cm (29.5 inches).  According to CPAC (Companion Animal Parasite Council), “Infections of children with D. caninum following ingestion of an infected flea are occasionally reported. The disease induced in the child is generally mild, confined to the intestinal tract, and readily treated, but can still be distressing to the family.”
  5. Fleas carry the Plague – the Bubonic Plague.  This is particularly important in the Rocky Mountain States.
  6. Fleas carry Typhus and yes it can be transmitted to humans.  According to Pubmed Health, “Typhus is caused by one of two types of bacteria: Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia prowazekii.” The form of typhus depends on which type of bacteria causes the infection. Murine typhus occurs in the southeastern and southern United States, often during the summer and fall. It is rarely deadly. Risk factors for murine typhus include:
    1. Exposure to rat fleas or feces
    2. Exposure to other animals such as cats, opossums, raccoons, skunks and rats
  7. Fleas can help to transmit “Cat Scratch” disease from one cat to another.  We humans get Cat Scratch Fever when we are scratched by an infected feline.
  8.  Fleas can transmit  Mycoplasma haemofelis a blood borne parasite that can cause damage to the red calls which results in anemia in your pet.
  9.  Even if your pet never goes outdoors, you can carry fleas into the house on your pants legs. Fleas can survive the winter just fine as long as you continue to heat your home. 
  10. Once there is an established flea infestation, it can be time consuming and expensive to resolve.  Like so many other problems fleas are much easier to prevent than alleviate.

 

I don’t know about you but I’m going to go make sure my dog is up to date on his flea prevention.