Fleas are common parasites that become particularly prevalent and annoying in the warm and humid environment of late Spring and Summer. They are an ectoparasite which means that they live on the outside of the host. For pet owners, this is typically anywhere on the body of a beloved pooch or kitty, where they bite the animal and feed on their blood. Small black “ground” fleas are often mistaken for another species when they are actually newly hatched, unfed fleas. Once they have gorged themselves on their host, they assume a normal appearance.
Fleas have no wings and are quite small, from 2 to 4 mm in length. They are dark brown to black in colour, with a narrow body and long legs which they use to jump up to 20cm vertically and 40cm horizontally.
Adult females lay tiny, smooth, round eggs in the bedding of the host or unfortunately, in furniture, rugs or carpets that the host i.e. the cat or dog has been lying on. She will lay 4-8 eggs a day after each blood meal until there are no more left to lay. The eggs hatch within 2 days to a couple of weeks depending on the climatic conditions. The larvae then pupate within a cocoon they have spun from sand, dust and debris. Below 13 C or above 34 C, the larvae will not develop.
If conditions are good, mature adults emerge from the cocoon within 7 to 14 days but in adverse conditions this can take up to a year. Sensing vibration, heat and carbon dioxide they emerge ready to feed. This could be from any warm-blooded source. This explains why removing a house pet to a boarding kennel and going on holidays will cause the fleas in the house to lay dormant. When the householder opens the front door on their return and steps inside, their legs are covered in hungry fleas!
Fleas prefer a warm, humid environment where dust and debris accumulate. They thrive under buildings and in yards frequented by animals. The soft furnishings and pet bedding in a household are like luxury accommodation to a flea.
The adult flea’s diet, predictably, is blood usually from dog, cat or human hosts, but also other animals such as rats. The larvae will feed on any organic debris including the faeces of adult fleas which still contain blood traces.
Detrimental Effects to Humans and Property
Flea bites to dogs and cats over time will cause flea allergy dermatitis and secondary skin irritations. They are also the intermediate host to the dog tapeworm which both dogs and cats can ingest by swallowing infected fleas. Children can become inadvertently infected with this tapeworm by also ingesting the infected fleas.
Bites to both pets and humans are irritating, and while most humans will have a small, red, itchy spot for a day or so, others may have a more severe allergic reaction.
Flea control needs a multi-pronged attack. The pet must be treated with whatever their veterinarian recommends i.e. flea collars, rinses, spot treatments, powders etc., to kill the adult fleas. The environment must also be attacked at the same time by wetting the soil outside or under the house, vacuuming upstairs and using chemical treatments. The pupae require that vibration from a living animal (or human) to hatch so the adult can come into contact with any chemical treatment.
This means that a concerted, simultaneous effort is required. For householders, treating the pet themselves and handing the rest of the eradication effort over to Bob Gunn’s team is the best solution.
Our team are trained, experienced and licensed to advise on the best method for eradicating fleas, and will offer a solution that suits each individual circumstance.