Anyone who has a dog or cat has undoubtedly already come across these unwanted house guests. Those who have, know that fighting fleas is not easy. To do this properly, it is first of all important to know how fleas spread. Once you know how they reproduce, it is a lot easier to fight them. In this blog post, we will tell you all about the types of fleas, their life and reproduction cycle and how to control and prevent them.
Nasty little creatures
To know if your pet has fleas, it is necessary to know what they are doing in your dog's or cat's fur and how to recognise them. What exactly are fleas? Fleas are basically ticklish, bloodsucking parasites that feed on the blood of cats and dogs. Unlike those other unpleasant, bloodsucking creatures from our worst nightmares, better known as vampires, fleas do not have wings. They travel by crawling and jumping very far. Contrary to what most people think, they do not live on animals, but in your house. After having jumped on their host to suck blood and having fed, they jump off the animal.
A flea is a mobile brownish black insect comparable to a tiny, flattened coffee bean that is generally not much larger than 3 mm in length. It sometimes causes skin irritation and/or itching. Some species can even transmit diseases! For example, fleas can carry the eggs of tapeworm, which in turn could infect your dog.
It’s the circle of life
Understanding the flea life cycle can help you fight and prevent this pest. There are two types of fleas that can occur on both dogs and cats: the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) and the dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis). This means that when fighting fleas, both dogs and cats should be treated. There are male fleas and female fleas. The females are the largest. A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day during the first few weeks of life. These tiny eggs, usually around 0.5 mm in size, fall from the coat of your pet onto the carpet, a pillow, on your wood or parquet flooring, onto the seats of your car etcetera. After a few days up to more or less 12 days (depending on the temperature and humidity of the environment), the eggs hatch into larvae, which are about 5 mm long and as thick as a thread. These light-sensitive larvae crawl into all crevices and cracks in your house and furniture and deep into carpets or rugs, and after a few weeks, they will normally pupate, but if necessary, they can stay in the pupa form for up to several months and sometimes even more than a year! The speed of development can vary depending on the temperature and humidity of the environment. The growth from a pupa to an adult flea can take only a few weeks, but several months as well! Vibrations and the (body) heat (of a potential host) cause the pupa to hatch and turn into yet another adult flea that is blood-thirsty and goes looking for a host. The higher the temperatures and humidity, the faster the development from egg to adult flea. During summer, 1 flea can reproduce 180 other fleas within 1 month and a large number of larvae and pupae.
You may be wondering if people can get fleas. As a matter of fact, fleas cannot live and survive on humans, but they can certainly bite us. Moreover, you can also transmit fleas through your shoes, clothes and hands and by petting your furry friends. When you visit someone, you can unintentionally pick up flea eggs as well. Maybe you sat down on a couch or other piece of furniture where eggs were laid? Just having been at a place outside your own home where there is a flea infestation is sometimes enough to infect your pet. Therefore, your pet can get fleas even if it never goes outside. Fleas are a big problem for pet owners. Especially in the summer or after a holiday, the chance on fleas is very big.
Now that you know more about the fleas and how they reproduce, it is also interesting to consider possible signs. How can you tell if your four-legged friend is suffering from fleas?
There are several signs that can tell you that your pet is suffering from fleas. The most familiar one is the following: your dog or cat suffers from itching. You might notice that your pet is scratching more than usual. Sometimes he can even jump awake to scratch or bite its skin. Fleas like warm, cosy places – and we cannot really blame them, right? Therefore, they can generally be found on body parts such as the belly, ears, groin and armpits. The fleas you find on your pet are only the fleas that come to eat (suck blood) at that moment. They jump off your dog or cat when they are satisfied and start to nest and lay eggs in the environment. Usually, the fleas you find on your dog represent only a small percentage of the total numbers present in your home. The largest part lives in the environment.
Another possible sign is flea dirt: small, brownish black flakes or dots on your dog’s skin. These can sometimes be spotted all over the body, or just in certain parts. This most likely means that you are seeing flea droppings. Not sure if it really is flea poop? A good test is to comb your dog or cat’s coat with a special flea comb and then, wipe the comb on a wet paper towel or on a moist cleaning wipe, or dab or gently rub a wipe directly over the coat. Then, fold the wipe together, gently press on it with your fingers and open it again. If you see brown circles outlined around the brownish black dots on the wipe, then you are dealing with fleas and their blood-filled faeces.
Because the coat is wet, you can clearly see that this is not dirt but that these are flea droppings.
Rubbing a wet wipe over the coat.
Proof that these spots are not dirt but flea droppings.
Some dogs can also develop a flea allergy, which means they react allergically to the saliva present when the flea bites. This can cause a severe reaction in the form of bald spots, scabs, skin inflammations and extreme itchiness. There are even dogs that develop a fever or show possible symptoms of illness, such as behaving in a restless way, whining and hiding under a table or behind a closet. Can you imagine how terrible this must be for your dog or cat? That is why urgent help and action are needed to help the animal get rid of it. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with these parasites.
Don’t let them get under your skin!
Flea control is not easy. You need to fight the fleas, eggs and larvae on the animal and in your house. Check pets and their living and sleeping places regularly. You can prevent a lot of nuisance yourself by taking measures in good time, such as daily vacuuming of the fixed sleeping areas. Keep in mind that a flea pupa can stay in the house for up to one year (sometimes even more!), until it develops into a flea. Tie up discarded vacuum or hoover bags or spray the vacuum cleaner (bag) with an ambient insecticide spray. Also vacuum your pet's basket or bed carefully.
If these precautions are too late, a good insecticide is also needed. We recommend an ambient spray to treat the dog’s or cat's environment, especially warm and dark places such as baskets or beds, fleece blankets, rugs, floor joints and possibly, if the dog or cat sleeps in your bed, bed sheets, mattresses and duvets or comforters. If you are treating material from inside your home with this spray, it is recommended that you do so outside. Fleas can’t survive heat. That’s why you can also boil-wash infested fabrics. Keep in mind though that only washing at 90 degrees has the desired eliminating effect. When leaving the house for a long time, it is best to thoroughly vacuum clean and get rid of the vacuum bag afterwards.
In addition, it is essential to wash your dog or cat with a professional flea shampoo. With the Show Tech+ Flea & Tick Shampoo, the fleas that are present on your four-legged friend will be immobilised and will cause no more harm. Regular repetition and follow-up is highly recommended. To remove the fleas and eggs from your pet, you can use a special, professional flea comb. We recommend that you seek professional guidance in treating your pooch or feline friend with fleas. After all, not all commercial means and products are (equally) efficient. Does your pet go to the grooming salon regularly? If so, the groomer will wash and treat your dog or cat with a professional anti-flea shampoo.
It is advisable to contact your groomer prior to any visit so that he or she can prepare properly. In case of severe infestation or flea allergy, consult your veterinarian.
For even more products that will help you prevent and control fleas, visit our website. Be sure to look out for our products with extracts from the tea tree, a natural way to combat fleas. Do you feel a sudden itch while reading this blog post? You are not alone. Time to scratch that itch... and get to work! Need help? Feel free to contact our sales team via Facebook, chat or by leaving a comment below. We are happy to help you.