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Types of fleas and what they look like

Fleas can make their way into even the cleanest of homes. Even if your pets are primarily indoor pets, they may fall victim to these bloodsucking pests.

Fleas are a reddish-brown tiny pest. They usually feed on animals but will also feed on humans as well. They do not have wings even though they might appear to be flying through the air. Their strong legs and flat bodies give them the ability to jump and travel from an animal to a person easily. These tiny pests are very hard to crush due to their armor like body. Their size and this armored body allows them to stay hidden in carpet without getting crushed. With the ability to jump straight up as high as 8 inches and up to 16 inches horizontally and hang out in carpet, they can spread from pet to pet or human pretty easily once inside the home.

Cat Fleas

The cat flea (ctenocephalides felis) by name would seem that it can only be found on cats. That is far from the truth. The cat flea is the most common flea.

Dog Fleas

The dog flea (ctenocephalides canis) looks very similar to a cat flea and usually can only be identified as a dog flea under a microscope. The dog flea can spread dipylidium caninum, also referred to as tapeworm.

Difference between cat and dog fleas

Their appearance is very similar to the human eye, but their appearance aside, the majority of fleas in American pets are cat fleas. Cat fleas will feed on many types of animals but dog fleas are specific to dogs. Infestations from dog fleas are very rare.

Rat Fleas

Also known as the oriental rat flea, Norway rat flea or tropical rat flea. They feed on rodent blood and are the carriers of murine typhus and the bubonic plaque. They feed on the infected rodent and then but and infect humans. They also are the hosts for many other diseases that are transmitted to future generations through their eggs.

Human Fleas

Human fleas live under the skin of a human and reproduce quickly. Other fleas do not live long on humans to due lack of hair similar to an animal, but human fleas prefer human and pig skin over hair and fur.

Sand/Beach Fleas (Chigeo)

Many bugs in the sand and at the beach jump and bite like fleas. Often people see these types of bugs and refer to them as sand or beach fleas. But the truth is, sand fleas are very small crustaceans. They do jump like fleas but they do not bite humans. They stay buried deep in the sand during the day and come out at night to eat. You are not likely to come across a true sand flea unless you are digging in the sand.

What do fleas eat?

Fleas are a parasite and they feed on the blood of the animal or person by biting them and sucking the blood. Cat fleas are the most common fleas and feed on cats, dogs and humans as well as outdoor animals like rodents and opossums. They will also feed on decaying plants and animals, but they are known for feeding on blood more than any other type of food source. Larvae and babies will start their diets with flea feces and decaying plants before they feed on blood.

Fleas like to live in moist, shady and humid areas but will live in most climates. Tall grass and wood piles in your yard is a likely spot for them to live. When in your home, they will hide in furniture, bedding and in cracks of the floor. If your pet is already infested with fleas, they can easily be transferred to the carpet when the pet lies down. When fleas lay eggs on your pet, they usually don’t stay on your pet. They fall off onto the floor and hatch spawning many young fleas into your home.

Since fleas are great jumpers and are not shy to jump on whoever is close, it is easy for fleas to spread in an apartment complex. Even without a pet of your own, you can have a flea infestation. The previous tenant might have had fleas and the eggs where left behind. They will stay in a cocoon for months until they feel vibration. That is when they emerge and are on the hunt for a big meal!

Where do fleas live?

Can fleas survive in the cold winter?

Fleas can survive temperatures as low as 46 degrees but it does take up to 5 days of below freezing to kill adult fleas.

How do fleas spread and get in my home?

How long do fleas live?

They are great jumpers and often unnoticed when jumping from a person or animal to another. Since they are so small in size, they can often hide and you might not know about them in your home until you have a large infestation. Usually fleas come into the home when an outdoor pet comes inside or from a dog park, shelter or kennel. It’s even possible for fleas to get in without help from a human or pet. They are capable of coming in through window screens or cracks in the floor and foundation.

Without an animal to host fleas, adults will live a few days to a few weeks. On short haired animals, they live an average of a week. They can live longer on long haired animals. Fleas can lay up to 500 eggs in just a couple of months and it only takes a female 2 days after her first blood feeding to start laying her own eggs!

Prevention

  • clean and vacuum frequently to remove fleas and prevent the laying of eggs
  • keep lawn maintained to avoid rodent habitats
  • practice active flea management on your pets

Flea Facts

  • fleas can live for about 100 days
  • they do not fly, they jump
  • they can produce 400-500 offspring in their lifetime
  • fleas jump 150 times their own height. If humans could do this, we could leap over skyscrapers!

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