Fleas and ticks may pose a very real threat to the health and
comfort of your pet. In addition to extreme discomfort, fleas
and ticks can also cause serious health problems in pets and
people. Don't compromise your pet's health--understanding fleas
and ticks is the first step in preventing an infestation or
Few creatures can inflict more misery, ounce for ounce, than
fleas. These tiny,
almost-invisible pests can make life miserable and disrupt your
household with a vicious cycle of biting and scratching. Fleas
may also cause flea allergy
dermatitis in some pets and maybe carriers of dangerous
Often too tiny to be seen, ticks attach to pets and feed on
blood until they are engorged. They thrive in high humidity and
moderate temperatures but can be found all over the country.
Ticks may carry and transmit diseases, including Lyme disease, that can
cause serious health problems for pets and people.
Where Fleas Hide
While most adult fleas are visible there are plenty of places
for them to hide that you may not be aware of. Fleas hide in
your carpet, bedding, around baseboards, cracks in floors, and
in hard-to-reach areas. A flea can live for about a month
without even feeding your pet. Instead, it will feed on dirt,
debris, and body waste. Fleas will live outside in areas that
have a lot of weeds, grass, or piled debris. Fleas can also be
commonly found in sidewalk cracks. When fleas infest your pet
they will hide around your pet's ears, between paws, in
armpits, skin folds, and at the base of their tail.
Here are some typical warning signs that may indicate that your
pet has fleas:
- Scratching or rubbing excessively against objects to gain
relief from itchiness.
- Bacterial infections can be developed from flea bites and
may need to be treated with antibiotics.
- Excessive licking to soothe irritated areas where your pet
has been bit.
Tapeworms can be contracted
from ingesting just one single flea.
Flea dirt may be visible on
your pet or in their bedding, this is the dried blood
excreted from the adult flea.
- Flea allergy dermatitis can be developed in the event that
your pet has an allergic reaction to the flea's saliva. You may
notice scabs or bumps on your pet’s back or neck.
What Are Fleas?
Fleas are supremely well designed to survive. For pet owners
and pets, fleas are an aggravation that’s easy to acquire, and
tricky to eradicate. That is why monthly preventatives
like Vectra 3D are so
important. Small and wingless, fleas are parasites that survive
by ingesting the blood of warm-blooded hosts like cats, dogs,
A flea’s entire body is designed to maximize eater—the head is
surrounded by sharp spikes, and mouths are adept at piercing
through a host’s skin and sucking out blood. Although fleas are
quite small—generally less than 1/8 of an inch in size—life is
miserable for your cat or dog as a host to fleas.
Signs of Fleas
Given the tiny size of fleas, it can be a challenge to know if
your pet has them. If you spot your cat or dog scratching and
suspect fleas, use a very fine-toothed comb through your pet’s
fur, checking for small brown shapes moving about. Look
especially closely for signs of fleas by the ears and tail of
your cat or dog.
In addition to looking for live fleas, keep an eye out for
what’s called “flea dirt”—the fecal matter that fleas deposit
upon hosts. Flea dirt looks like tiny black specks on your
pet’s skin and fur. When moistened on a tissue, flea dirt will
turn the towel red, since it is primarily composed of ingested
Fleas create an uncomfortable, itchy situation for your pets.
In some cases, fleas can also lead to more dangerous problems
How Did My Pet Get Fleas?
Fleas give birth abundantly, so much so that a single flea can
begin an epidemic in your house. Fleas are capable of jumping
nearly a foot in the air vertically, making it easy for dogs,
outdoor cats, and you to carry fleas home. Because they are so
easy to track inside, even indoor cats are susceptible to
fleas. Fleas are most comfortable in warm temperatures with
high humidity, so catching fleas is particularly easy in the
Meet Your Enemy—The Life Cycle of Fleas
Of the 2,500 species of fleas, your pet is most likely to be
impacted by Ctenocephalides felis, or the cat flea. Fleas have
four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Understanding
the progression of the stages can help you through the process
of getting rid of fleas.
- Eggs: Female fleas can lay up to 20 eggs at a time,
typically depositing the eggs upon a host or on a warm spot.
Eggs can easily roll off the host; the area where pets
sleep is particularly likely to be a breeding ground for eggs.
- Larva: After the eggs hatch, a process that can
take between a couple of days and a week, fleas enter the larva
stage. As larva, fleas ingest organic matter, such as dead skin
and the feces of adult fleas.
- Pupa: In the pupa phase, fleas weave a silken
cocoon. In its cocoon, a pupa can sense if a food source is
available and will remain dormant until it senses a potential
warm-blooded host nearby. Fleas can remain in this dormant pupa
stage for several months.
- Adults: Adulthood is the final stage of a flea’s
life, and once this stage is reached, a flea will need to eat
within a few weeks. After this first feeding, fleas can survive
for a few months without a meal. Life for an adult flea is
focused upon feeding and reproducing. Adult females typically
lay eggs upon their host – many of these eggs will roll off
your pet’s body. The area where pets sleep is particularly
prone to be covered with eggs. A flea’s lifespan varies from a
few weeks to several months depending on the hospitality of its
Having just one flea enter your house can be enough to start an
epidemic. An adult female can give birth to as many as 500 eggs
within her relatively short lifetime.
Getting Rid of Fleas
Removing fleas from your pet
and home is difficult, mainly because of the flea’s life cycle.
Eradicating adult fleas is relatively easy, but removing all of
the eggs is essential to preventing the birth of a new
generation. Tackling this project will require you to
thoroughly clean and treat your pet and your home, and
potentially use insecticide on the landscaping of your home as
Applying a once monthly topical or oral flea treatment will not only kill your
pet's fleas, it will prevent a possible re-infestation from
occurring. Always try to keep all areas of your house and yard
that you or your pets use clean. As your pet walks, fleas are
able to hop on or off and eggs can fall off into your flooring.
Vacuuming on a regular basis is important as fleas will hide in
your carpet while waiting for a pet to feed off of.
Try to change your pet’s bedding as frequently as possible as
this is a hospitable environment for fleas to live and feed off
your pet while they are at rest. If it is a machine washable
bed, wash it in the hottest water allowable by the
More on Fleas and Ticks
25 Startling Flea and Tick
Flea and Tick Medication Comparison
Get Rid of Fleas in 8 Steps