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Getting Rid of Fleas – A Multi Step Process

Pulex irritansIf you have a pet, chances are you have had fleas at one time or another. These wingless insects feed on animal blood and, when no animals are handy, they dine on human blood. More than half of visits to the vet for dermatological conditions are due to fleas and it only takes one flea bite to set off a round of itching in a person or animal who is hypersensitive to these animals. Flea treatments and control measures are available and Americans spend about $9 billion a year on these products.

Adult fleas are brownish black, flat looking and very small, only about 1/8″ long. Fleas have bristles which point backward and these bristles not only help them move, but also make it hard to remove them from the animal during the grooming process. The legs are long and help the flea to jump. Flea larva are legless, dirty white and less than 1/4″ long.

Fleas go through four stages. Female fleas lay eggs within 48 hours of taking in a blood meal and can lay approximately 27 eggs a day. During this time, she consumes approximately 15 times her body weight each day in blood, much of which is then excreted as feces. These are identifiable as a reddish-black dust.

Flea larvae eat this dust to survive and develop in a five to ten day period. The flea then moves to the larva period where he or she forms a cocoon. Within a two week period the pupa becomes an adult and may remain in this cocoon for as long as five months. When the cocoon is stimulated, the adult emerges and this process only takes seconds so a flea infestation in a vacant home can occur in minutes.

Fleas can make animals sick and irritate them. When pets have fleas, they scratch and can develop nervous conditions. The biggest concern is a pet with a flea allergy as only one bite can lead to problems when the animal scratches due to severe itching. Fleas don’t live on humans, but will bite them and people who are allergic to fleas may develop hives, a rash or general itching. When a flea bites a human, this reaction takes up to 24 hours to appear and lasts as long as a week. Fleas who have bitten a rodent can transmit diseases, but cat fleas, the most common in America, don’t carry the plague.

When it comes to getting rid of fleas, a multi step process must be taken. The pet must be treated along with his or her environment. The environment contains 90% of the flea population, in various stages of the life cycle. Pet bedding must be washed or dry cleaned thoroughly and the area must be vacuumed to removed the fleas in all life stages. In addition, vacuums help to stimulate fleas hiding in their cocoons. After vacuuming, the vacuum cleaner bag must be sealed and taken outdoors to prevent another infestation.

Insecticides will need to be used in the home and several low-toxicity versions are available. Homeowners need to treat the home more than once as flea pupae emerge after treatment and they will need to be handled also.

Pets must be treated for fleas. Soap and combing may aid the process, but often aren’t enough to take on a flea population. If you find that no matter what you do, the fleas seem to keep coming back, the time has come to call in a professional. You and your pets deserve complete flea relief which they can provide.