The flea’s small brown body is flat on each side so it can easily move between the hairs of an animal. Its well developed back legs enable it to do a 13 cm high jump and a 20 cm broad jump. Fleas have no wings. There are over 40 species of fleas in Canada. The cat flea infests some fifty animal species as well as man, and is found on pets more often than any other species.
The adult female first feeds on the blood of an animal or human before mating. She ingests more blood than she needs and discharges some through her anus. She then lays eggs on the host. They drop very quickly, often while the animal is sleeping. A whitish larva resembling a small worm emerges from each egg. The larva develops best when the humidity is high, and it is not exposed to light. It then hides in folds in the carpet or between floorboards, in wardrobes or under furniture. Its menu consists of scraps such as squama (small scales shed when the epidermis renews itself), castings (excess dried blood partially digested by the adult), dust, and hairs. The larva bends its body into a ‘U’ shape, transforms into a nymph inside a dust-covered silk cocoon, then puts its development on hold (sometimes up to 20 months!) until an animal or human passes by. Alerted to its approach through detected heat and carbon dioxide given off during breathing, it rapidly completes its maturation. Even the males feed on blood. During the cold season, only adult fleas infesting an animal or young ones wrapped up in a well-sheltered cocoon can survive outdoors.
Places they can be found in the home
Larvae tend to be found in the living room, bedrooms, or rooms in which the floorboards or carpets allow them to hide. Their eggs are visible to the naked eye. You may be able to detect them by examining the vacuum cleaner bag after sweeping. To verify the presence of adult fleas, wear long white socks or place sheets of white paper on the floor to help you see them better. Because fleas jump, they attach themselves to feet and ankles during the day, while all parts of the body are accessible at night since they may be hiding in the mattress. There are no visible marks in humans as the result of the initial blood drawing. Sometimes, reddish dots can be seen in a line caused by the flea’s exploratory activity. Furthermore, the flea injects significant itching to allergic individuals and animals that are hypersensitive to the saliva. This insect appears to have a marked preference for babies and young children. Fleas can be found anywhere on your pet. Inspect the hairs on its abdomen, and other areas where the hair is not very thick, by spreading them apart (under good lighting). It is sometimes easier to spot the castings (dried excrement). You can also swab the animal’s body using cotton impregnated with detergent to see whether it turns reddish on contact with the animal’s hair.
It is better not to have carpeting everywhere in the house since it provides an ideal larvae habitat.
Your pet is not likely to get fleas just from associating with other animals. Cats and dogs usually become infested outdoors while passing by a shaded spot, sheltered from the wind, where larvae are present. Larvae do not develop in places exposed to sunlight. Some pet owners will opt not to let their cats outdoors during risk periods; others will forbid them access to certain rooms in the house.
Fleas rarely attach themselves to people when they take an infested domestic animal in their arms. It is the newly-emerged fleas that make their home in apartments that are more likely to jump onto a human, especially if the animal that used to live there is no longer in the house.
A veterinarian can help explain the existing options for protecting your pet (and your own health, as a result) before the most favourable season – late summer to early fall. However, fleas can be present all year long.
If you do not have a pet in your house, check to see if there are any wild animals or birds’ nests nearby.
There exists a lot of host of products (shampoos, collars, etc.) available on the market to combat fleas. Today, we rely more on prevention, but recommended treatments can also be used to deal with an existing infestation. An adulticide can be applied to the animal’s back, and a growth regulator can be administered in the form of tablets or injections. Any flea that jumps on the animal will either be killed quickly or will be incapable of having any offspring. A veterinarian can advise you on all aspects of your animal’s health. The preventive approach begins in early June and continues until October. There have already been cases of fleas that are resistant to medicated substances.
Use a vacuum cleaner to remove eggs, larvae, and nymphs in their cocoons. Insecticide should not be spread around the house unless there are cases of allergies, or if the fleas are avidly attacking humans after the animal has left. Do not overlook the animal’s bed when applying a treatment since fleas are particularly active at night. Outdoor chemical treatments have been abandoned due to their ineffectiveness. Research has been done on nematode predators (worms).
In the laboratory, fleas do not live as long when exposed to extreme conditions (temperature of 3°C or over 35°C, or relative humidity less than 50%). Some development stages prove to be more resistant, however, and these results would not apply when the fleas develop outdoors. Their metabolism can slow down at any stage until favourable conditions return.
Just because we itch is no reason to blame it on fleas automatically. Sometimes a flea captured and placed in a jar is in reality nothing more than a small pile of carpet or debris. There are many factors that can cause itching. Furthermore, people who have previously been afflicted by fleas can develop a phobia for these insects and fear them to the point of wrongly believing they are still infested.
In some species of fleas, the adults feed on a single animal species. Fleas that change hosts contribute to the transmission of a number of illnesses in animals as well as man.
The amount of blood drawn by a flea is impressive when you consider it is equal to 15 times the flea’s own weight, but on average it is only 13.6 microliters of blood per day. These insects have at least one meal a day, but sometimes three, four or even more when they are disturbed. When present in large numbers, they can have an impact on an animal’s health, particularly young ones, since they groom less frequently than adults who eat several fleas while grooming.
The mortality rate for young fleas is rather high but, unfortunately for us, fleas lay a considerable number of eggs that can develop quickly.