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. That
is why preventatives like Vectra
3D are so important. 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 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.
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 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
prescription from the vet or as well 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 have them.
What is Flea Dirt?
Flea dirt is another way to tell if your pet has fleas. If you
start noticing small black clumps all over their fur, it could
mean that your beloved cat or dog is dealing with
a flea infestation. When you
notice this unsavory phenomenon, it means it's time to start
upping your flea and tick prevention game with meds
like Comfortis or Advantage for cats. Here’s everything
you need to know about flea dirt and what it means for your
Flea Dirt Explained
Simply put, flea dirt is flea feces, which appears on your pet
in small, dark clumps. It is mostly made up of the blood the
flea has sucked out of your pet, and it is a clear sign that
your pet has fleas!
Here’s a flea fact for
you: Most flea dirt comes from female fleas, who over their
lifetime will digest close to 15 times the body weight of your
pet’s blood if you don’t use some sort of treatment.
Where to Find Flea Dirt
Flea dirt is usually easiest to see on the stomach of your pet.
This is where their fur is the lightest color and the least
thick. Flea dirt can also be found on your pet’s bedding so
make sure to check there.
If you have doubts about whether or not what you’re seeing is
flea dirt or just normal dirt, there’s an easy test. Grab one
of the small black clumps with a wet paper towel. If that black
clump really is flea dirt, it will turn a reddish color once it
How to Get Rid of Flea Dirt
In the short term, you can wash and shampoo your dog to clean
off the flea dirt. However, the flea dirt will just return as
long as your dog has fleas.
The only way to get rid of flea dirt completely is to get rid
of all fleas in your home, yard, and on your pet. There
are many treatment
options available, ranging from spot-on solutions, like PetArmor, Advantage II for Dogs, or Frontline for cats, to oral pills, like Capstar Flea Killer. Use one to keep
your dog flea dirt-free!
More on Fleas
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How to Kill Fleas in the
What Temperature Do Fleas
How to Get Rid of
Fleas in 8 Steps Infographic
My Dog Has Fleas, What Should I
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.