Cat & Dog Fleas
Fleas are small (1/16 to 1/8-inch (1.5 to 3.3 mm) long), agile, usually dark colored (for example, the reddish-brown of the cat flea), wingless insects with tube-like mouth-parts adapted to feeding on the blood of their hosts. Their legs are long, the hind pair well adapted for jumping: a flea can jump vertically up to 7 inches (18 cm) and horizontally up to 13 inches (33 cm).This is around 200 times their own body length, making the flea one of the best jumpers of all known animals (relative to body size), second only to the froghopper.
The cat flea’s primary host is the domestic cat, but this is also the primary flea infesting dogs in most of the world. The cat flea can also maintain its life cycle on other carnivores and on the Virginia opossum. Humans can be bitten but cannot be infested, so a population of cat fleas cannot be sustained by this aberrant host.
Ctenocephalides felis / Ctenocephalides canis
Life cycle and Habit
The female cat flea lays her eggs on the host, but the eggs, once dry, have evolved to filter out of the hair coat of the host into the resting and sheltering area of the host.
The eggs hatch into larvae, which are negatively phototoxic, meaning that they hide from light in the substrate. Flea larvae feed on a variety of organic substances, but most importantly subsist on dried blood that is filtered out of the hair coat of the host after it is deposited there as adult flea fecal material. Thus the adult population on the host feeds the larval population in the host’s environment.
Flea larvae metamorphose through 4 stages before spinning a cocoon and entering the pupal stage. The pupal stage varies greatly in length; the pre-emergent flea does not normally emerge as a young adult flea until the presence of a potential host is perceived by warmth or vibration. Newly emerged fleas are stimulated to jump to a new host within seconds of emerging from the cocoon. The new flea begins feeding on host blood within minutes.
Effects on the hosts
A few fleas on adult dogs or cats cause little harm unless the host becomes allergic to substances in saliva. The disease that results is called flea allergy dermatitis. Small animals with large infestations can lose enough bodily fluid to fleas feeding that dehydration may result. Fleas are also responsible for disease transmission through humans. If the fleas have been sucking blood, then after each and every blood meal, females lay four to eight eggs at a time (approximately 400 to 800 in total within her lifetime) on the host animal and/or in its bedding.
Adult fleas feed on blood with their piercing and sucking mouthparts. They typically seek a blood meal within two days of becoming an adult. Cat and dog fleas prefer these two animals, but readily feed on other animals (i.e. raccoons, rats and humans).They will have a reddish-brown color when squashed.
Cat fleas can transmit other parasites and infections to dogs and cats and also to humans.
For effective flea control, this requires customer cooperation and involves three major steps: sanitation, insecticide application, and on-animal flea control. The house should be thoroughly vacuumed to remove larvae, pupae and food materials. The vacuum cleaner bag should be sealed and discarded immediately after vacuuming, and pet bedding should be discarded or washed in hot, soapy water. The pet should be treated on the same day that a residual insecticide treatment is being done at the home.