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All About Fleas

Pesky and Gross, Fleas Can Mean Big Trouble for Pets

By Madeleine Burry. May 07, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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All About Fleas

Fleas can mean more than itching, flea bites can cause sores on the skin and can transmit diseases.

As pests go, fleas are a fairly large nuisance: the insect bites cause discomfort and irritation, and fleas are a challenge to remove from your home, cat, or dog. And, like most biting insects, fleas can be a vector of diseases, passing along problems from one host to the next. While fleas cannot fly, they are capable of jumping up to two feet in height -- which is all the more remarkable given the tiny size of their bodies. Fleas also reproduce at an alarming clip, and are capable of laying as many as 600 eggs within a lifetime. Learn all about fleas and some effective methods of flea prevention for dogs and cats here.

What Are Fleas?

Fleas are parasitic insects that are known for ingesting the blood of pets, and to a lesser extent, humans. Bites feel extremely itchy, and for some cats and dogs, this itchiness moves beyond an irritation to a serious allergy-like reaction from the salvia in the flea bite, which can cause an allergic response. And, since fleas can bite multiple hosts, they can easily pass along diseases from one animal to the next.

As well as contracting diseases, pets can become anemic due to the fleas ingesting a lot of blood during feedings. Due to the volume of their offspring, once a flea is inside your home or on your pet, it’s very difficult to eradicate their presence. Most commonly, you or your pet will get cat fleas -- or Ctenocephalides felis. There are also dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis), and people fleas (Pulex irritans), but these are less common.

How Do You or Your Pet Get Fleas?

Dogs and cats get fleas predominantly from going outside, but keep in mind that fleas can also hitch a ride inside on your pant legs or shoes. So it’s possible that you could have brought them into your home from a hotel or from a walk in an outside area with fleas. Because they can be so easy to catch -- especially for outside pets -- flea prevention options like medication or flea collars are the best strategy for any pet owner.

Eliminating Fleas

Once you have fleas -- whether they are biting you, living in your yard, or biting your pet -- you’re going to want to get rid of them. Because of the flea’s life cycle, starting as an egg, and progressing to a larvae through to adulthood, it’s particularly challenging to remove them, and you’ll need to have a few different methods of attack. One medication may kill the flea eggs, but yet another one may be needed to kill the larval or adult fleas. Medications are available through a perscription from the vet or as well as through over the counter options. If the fleas are a presence in your home, you’ll need to clean all fabric-based items, like carpets, curtains, and furniture, and may also need to apply pesticides in the form of foggers or powders.

The important thing to remember with fleas is that it’s far easier to prevent your cat or dog from getting fleas than it is to remove the fleas once your pet and home has them.

More on Fleas

What do Fleas Look Like?
How to Kill Fleas in the Yard
What Temperature Do Fleas Flourish In?
How to Get Rid of Fleas in 8 Steps Infographic
My Dog Has Fleas, What Should I Do?

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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