We all know that fleas are a nuisance that bite us and our pets. But did you know that fleas have been around for 100 million years, since the time of the Tyrannosaurus Rex?Fleas have a tough hard-bodied exoskeleton covered with a layer of wax to make them waterproof. They are flattened vertically like a fish making them difficult to “kill by squishing”. They have piercing, sucking mouthparts and grow on average 1/12 inches long. When you pick up a flea it uses its powerful legs to jump 150 times its own length in order to jump out of your hands.
On average a flea lives 2-3 months. The female flea can lay 2000 eggs in her lifetime and consumes 15 times her own body weight in blood DAILY. If you have a flea infestation in your home the population would look like this:
- 5% Adult Fleas
- 10% in cocoons
- 35% Flea Larval
- 50% Flea eggs
The cocoons, larvae and eggs are mostly scattered throughout the home in floors cracks, rug edges, furniture and beds.
Fleas are annoying because their bites cause discomfort. The irritation is caused by flea salivary secretions-spit. Many pets also develop Flea Allergy Dermatitis causing much severe generalized itch, pain, and hair loss and skin infection.
Fleas also transmit tapeworm. When pets eat a flea while grooming, the tapeworm eggs living inside the flea will mature inside your pet’s intestines where it will grow and reproduce. Young toddlers that like to put things in their mouth can also acquire tapeworm if they find a flea and eat it.
In animals that are heavily infested, anemia develops which can lead to weakness and fatigue.
What fleas are most famous for is their transmission of the Plague resulting in the death of 20 million people during the Middle Ages. During these episodes, infected fleas transmitted the deadly bacteria from rodent to rodent and rodents then transmitted it to humans, the most notable being the Black Death of 1348.
The good news is that with today’s advanced medical research and science, fleas can be easily prevented and easily killed. Effective products like Program, Advantage, and Revolution are available through your veterinarian. Visit our Dog Fleas and Ticks and Cat Flea Control page to learn more!
Written by Dr. Heather Mosher