Fleas for all the family – family pets & people
Fleas(Siphonaptera) – did you know:
95% of a flea’s life is spent off the pet and in your family living environment and …….
- Cause discomfort and irritate the skin of our pets
- Some develop flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) caused by an allergic reaction to flea saliva causing excessive scratching leading to skin infections
- Fleas are intermediate hosts of tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) which may infect humans
- Heavy flea burdens in kittens and puppies can result in anaemia
There are over 1,400 species of fleas – the most common types being cat, human, dog, oriental, bird or rabbit. By far the most common is the cat flea and despite its name is commonly found on dogs. Feeds on the blood of its host. Larvae live on the floor or in bedding of hosts feeding mainly on blood rich faeces of adult fleas also on detritus, dust, fluff, animal protein in the form of skin scales and feathers of birds.
A single flea can lay 20-30 eggs per day, up to 5,000 eggs in a lifetime, can consume up to 15 times their own bodyweight in blood every single day. The eggs fall off the host and into the bedding area and two or three days later will hatch. The larvae are active for 2-4 weeks, feeding on faeces of the adult and other debris; pupation occurs in cracks and crevices of the home and the adult can live for several weeks without food. Breeding grounds are usually concentrated around sleeping areas of pets, the basket, bedding or kennel but may also occur in furniture. The adult may remain dormant in the cocoon in the absent of a host until the passage of a nearby host stimulates its emergence via vibration. This reliance on stimulation from vibration preserves energy to maximise the food stored from larval development.
Cat fleas will attack the lower portions of human legs, especially around the ankles. Frequent flea bites higher up would normally indicate human fleas, especially if the bites are around the waist or abdomen. Flea bites are highly irritating especially to children and the ability of species to remain dormant in older buildings over longer periods.
They can jump 150 times their own height, about six inches. Infestations can stem from bird nests in attics or unoccupied properties that were previously heavily infested. There may be several hours between a bite and a reaction. This may confuse attempts to discover the source of an infestation. Reports of flea infestations in office buildings may sometimes be due to skin irritations caused by static charges, carpet or paper fibres or delayed reactions to bites obtained elsewhere.
Family pets should be treated by a veterinary surgeon with approved licensed flea treatments. Remove all animals from treatment area, bedding should be removed and washed on a hot cycle 60°C, disinfect bedding area, kennel orfloor surfaces even under furniture where pets frequent. Insect growth regulators should be used to control flea life cycle from larvae to adult stagewhich are only available as professional products from your pest control technician. As part of a complete flea prevention programme, Indorex® from ecologica.ie breaks the flea life-cycle for up to 12 months and kills all adult fleas in your home for up to three weeks.Post-treatment it is vital you vacuum clean all floors and upholstered furniture for seven consecutive days so that unhatched pupae will hatch out due to vibrations of the vacuum cleaner and be killed from the residual treatment.
Mervyn WalshBA(Hons), HDip.EnvMgt, MRSPH
Field Conservation Biologist