All you need to know about fleas

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about fleas!

You probably don’t even want to think about these blood sucking parasites but your pet would like to live without them, so here’s all you need to know about fleas…

  • Fleas are bloodsucking parasites from the order of insects known as Siphonaptera, which means “wingless siphon”.
  • Cat and dog fleas are common in Australia.
  • Fleas are carriers of the bacterium that causes bubonic plague bubonic.
  • Fleas carry a stage of tapeworms which can be accidentally ingested by humans.
  • Our pets can suffer from flea allergy dermatitis, making them very itchy

All you need to know about fleas
Why fleas are ideally adapted to living on our pets

  • Their flattened shape enables them to move quickly through hair.
  • They have strong “claws” and barbed hairs that help them cling to their host.
  • Their head has sawing and sucking mouth parts, ideal for cutting though flesh and sucking blood.
  • They have two short antennae on the head that are sensitive to stimuli including heat, vibration, traces of carbon dioxide and change in air currents and shadows. Perfect for sensing a dog or cat.
  • The flea’s hind legs are well developed for jumping up to 30cms, either to make contact with a host or avoid a threatening situation.
  • After feeding on blood, the female flea lays lots of eggs every day (up to 50 eggs).That’s 50 eggs per flea per day- a lot of fleas!

All you need to know about fleas

 And for living in our environment

  • Warm, humid conditions, such as those found in Australia, are ideal conditions for fleas to flourish.
  • Fleas get everywhere, not just on your pet, but on their bedding, in your carpet, between your floorboards.
  • Fleas can survive for several months without feeding.
  • Fleas have a life cycle including eggs, larvae, pupa and adult. A complete life cycle takes between 2 weeks and 1 year, depending on temperature, humidity and food availability.

All you need to know about fleas

Why we hate fleas…

  • Flea bites cause irritation and often intense itching to humans that have been bitten.
  • Jumping from host to host causes the transfer of viral, bacterial and parasitic diseases.
  • They give us extra work – vacuuming floors, washing bedding (need to boil wash).

How we know our pet has fleas

  • We start scratching!
  • You see them scurrying about your pet’s fur, particularly around the collar, tail or genital region.
  • You see specks of flea dirt on your pet’s fur (difficult in some coats)
  • Test for them – put some wet paper under your pet and comb or shake your pet’s hair. When flea dirt drops off, it will stain the paper with blood.
All you need to know about fleas
What we do about fleas
We can either:

  • Spend hours and hours grooming your pet, washing bedding, vacuuming floors, setting flea bombs and, of course, scratching…or
  • Buy flea medicines to give to your pet to kill and prevent them.

Consult your vet about which treatments to use. Your pet specialty store and even supermarkets have treatments available.

More reading
Tick, tick: a guide to paralysis ticks on your pets
Health check: What bugs can you catch from your pets?



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