Bug bites are an annoyance and a potential source of danger to pets and to people who have them. Flea bites do not carry the level of concern that is needed with other bug bites, when one must have a doctor check it out almost immediately, but they can cause allergic reaction and rashes; fleas can also be a vector for a variety of bacterial and viral diseases, and it isn’t unusual for them to transmit tapeworm. Even if they are not infected, flea bites can certainly drive an animal or a person crazy, as they always come in multiples and are very difficult to get rid of.
Flea bites on humans
Fleas on humans aren’t that frequent, they prefer your dog or your cat. On people, flea bites usually come from one of three species: cat flea, dog flea or human flea. Here’s what NHS Choices says about flea bites on humans:
Flea bites can be grouped in lines or clusters. If you are particularly sensitive to flea bites, they can lead to a condition called papular urticaria (where a number of itchy red lumps form). Bullae may also develop.
Fleas from cats and dogs can often bite below the knee, commonly around the ankles. They may also affect the forearms if you have been stroking or holding your pet.
*Bullae is latin word for bubbles.
Actually, only bites that come from human flea are grouped in clusters of two, three or more in a row. Bites that humans get from dog or cat flea, the most common species in the US, are more often single red dots. Some people can develop an allergic reaction to fleas bites, when only one bite is enough to trigger it, and it isn’t often but it’s possible to get some serious diseases from fleas who transmit bacteria, viruses, protozoa and helminth (see more on flea bites on humans).
Flea bites on pets
Whether you have a cat, a dog, a rabbit or some other animal, chances are that the flea species that feasts on them is – cat flea. Flea species do have their preferred host, but if there’s not enough of it, they have no trouble feeding on another animal, human or otherwise. Bites on dogs and cats may as well go unnoticed, but if the infestation takes more serious form, it can lead to a flea invasion of your house and you. Pets, especially dogs, are far more sensitive to substances in flea saliva than humans, and develop an allergic reaction even after one bite.
How and why do fleas bite
Fleas are obligate parasites, which means that they have to suck blood from warm-blooded animals to survive, and female adult flea also needs blood to reproduce – she actually needs to feed two or three times a day, but she only needs to mate once in a lifetime to be able to reproduce (see Flea life cycle). In other words, fleas don’t bite for fun but because they have to.
The evolution has perfected their feeding system making their bodies thin, but able to store about 15 times their own body weight of blood, and with many short spines that allow them to hold on tight to the host. After they pierce the skin, they inject saliva that contains more than fifteen different substances that can provoke severe allergic reaction, especially with dogs, who then develop a condition called flea allergy dermatitis.
What do flea bites look like
If there is no allergic reaction, flea bites are small red dots that you may even will not be able to see. However, since the animal or person will probably scratch the bitten area, a secondary skin infection can easily arise if the bite breaks open by scratching.
When an allergic reaction occurs, there will be a large amount of redness with strong itching in that area, with little pimples, or pustules, that will require special treatment.
How to treat flea bites and how to prevent them in future
We have an entire section dedicated to flea bites treatment on humans and animals. Treatment for the flea bites include some home remedies such as calamine lotion, vinegar or alcohol, as well as the creams that can be bought in the pharmacies, but generally, if you or your pet get bitten frequently, you have no other choice but to break the flea life cycle by treating your home and your pets with insecticide, which would be the only long-term solution for this problem. Vacuuming daily is the first step to get rid of flea eggs and larvae.
The day has come, huh? If you are serious in your intention to get rid of fleas in house, arm yourself with patience and knowledge: the enemy CAN be destroyed! – Military language, yes, I know, but that’s pretty much the mindset you need for this kind of fight: you will need to plan your activities carefully and to perform them in a timely manner.
Before we begin: Know your enemy
Life cycle of a flea is its biggest weapon. The stage that bothers your pet, adult flea that sucks its blood, makes only about 5% of the entire flea population in the environment, and not the most resilient one. Simple math: if you kill 5 adult fleas, you can count on another 95 in other forms, specifically: 50 eggs, 35 larvae and 10 in pupate stage (providing the 5 you’ve killed are the only ones in adult stage). See where’s the problem? Getting rid of fleas in the house is possible though – so many have done it, and so can you!
How to get rid of fleas in your house – the “do-it-yourself” way
Obviously, it’s easier to call an exterminator, but you can actually do it yourself, if that’s what you want. You will need a couple of hours, a vacuum cleaner, an insecticide and a product for your pet’s treatment.
Simply put, you need to break their life cycle. To do that, you will need to treat your pet, your house and your yard all on the same day, because there are probably all four forms of flea in the surroundings. You HAVE to hit them all at once, this isn’t negotiable!
First step: Vacuum
I suppose you do this regularly, but this time you have to give your best: vacuum carefully every corner of your house, use the nozzle attachment of the vacuum cleaner where needed, and pay special attention to dark crevices, corners, under furniture, rugs, pet beds. Besides from vacuuming up eggs, larvae and pupae, the vibrations from vacuuming will act as a calling to the fleas that still hide inside the cocoon, to come out of it, which will make them vulnerable to the insecticide that you will use in the next step.
When you finish, dispose of the contents of the vacuum cleaner, and wash it if possible.
(photo by Flickr)
Second step: Insecticide
When buying one, read the label and look for the ones that contain IGR = Insect Growth Regulator. This is the protein that stops fleas in stages of eggs and larvae from developing to maturity – they won’t be able to lay eggs, so the cycle stops.
There are many products that contain IGR, but this one is what professionals use, so I wouldn’t search any further: Precor 2000 Plus (the link will take you directly to Amazon, it costs about $14). Now, you may not like using chemicals in and around your house, but there are no effective home remedies to kill fleas in all stages, they simply won’t work. After all, you will only need to do it once.
Now, spray everywhere you can reach. If you can’t reach a corner, then move the furniture or do what ever it takes so that the spray reaches under beds, rugs, furniture; fleas in all stages of their life cycle avoid the light, so what ever crack you see on the floor – spray it.
Then go outside, to the yard, and repeat the process. You can use the same insecticide that you used inside the house, and spray the places where your pet spends time, particularly where it sleeps. You can skip the sunny parts of the yard, it’s highly unlikely that any form of flea feels happy there.
Third step: Pets
Flea collars and flea powders – forget about them. The new generation of products is much safer for both pets and humans, and much more effective. Frontline is top spot product for this – there are several kinds of this product for dogs and cats, you can use the link above to the Amazon store to check them, just type “frontline” in the search field.
Another option are tablets, if you prefer that, equally effective, but they can produce side effects and can be quite expensive.
… possible… Fourth step: Fleas are back after two weeks
Those are the ones that were hiding inside the cocoon when you were performing your exterminator tour. This is something you can expect if you had a particularly heavy flea infestation originally. Well, repeat the process, and this time should be the last, that’s why you used an insecticide with IGR ;)
Ok. Get rid of fleas in house, check. Once you’re done, try not to let your pets get in contact with other animals. A single flea might be enough for the infestation to start all over again, and I’m sure you don’t want to go through this again.
Cats are one of the widest pet animals in the world and for this, flea bites on cats make a leading pet related problem for every other house with a cat. However, there are cases that even if there are not animals in the house, the house can still be infested with fleas either due to hidden rodents in the house of one of the residents having a flea infection. On the surface, fleas may not seem to be much of a big issue but once your pet or someone in your house has it, there seems to nothing worse than it.
There are many skin and health related issues that can arise because of flea bites on cats. One thing that has to be understood is that most of the times only the adult fleas bite to feed on the blood in order to either lay eggs or protect the territory. So, if there are signs of flea bites on your cat, you already know that there is a whole colony of fleas there and you need to take immediate action to first get rid of the fleas and then destroy its colony to make sure that they do not come back. Doing both the things are equally important because if you do not destroy the colony, there is a fair chance that fleas will be back in a matter of just days.
Because flea bites on cats can cause different types of allergies and can raise serious health concerns for your cat, there are many clear indications from which you can easily find out that your cat is a flea house. One of the primary indicators is that unlike its nature, your cat would be more hypersensitive and restless than ever. Then your cat would be licking its different body parts a little too much or scratching its skin again and again at the same spot. Loss of hair from the tip of the tail or from a specific part of its body is another visible sign of serious flea infection. If any of these indications are there, it is time that you take things seriously. There are flea combs that can be bought from any pet store, use it as a first test to know if there really are fleas on your cat. If you can’t find them, take your cat to a vet for a skin test.
Treating fleas on cats
There are many natural and chemical products that can be used to get rid of fleas and treat flea bites on cats. These products have to be applied on the skin of the cat and have to be left there for a while before they are washed off. Once the flea treatment is applied, it usually kills the weak fleas and weakens the stronger ones. Letting it be there keeps the fleas from growing or moving to some other place. The products have to be applied continually for a few days so that your cat can get rid of the fleas for good. If your cat licks off the topical solution or you have a tough time bathing it with a flea shampoo, you can alternatively go for oral treatments. However, compared to topical treatments, it takes more time to be taken care of.
Just treating your cat is not enough, because you also have to give yourself and your cat a better and flea-free living conditions. Talk to your nearest pest controller about controlling fleas. Vacuum clean the rugs and carpets thoroughly throughout the house, sweep clean the floors and other hard surfaces and make sure even the corners of the house are cleaned properly. Take all the rubbish out of the house and wash the bed sheets and disinfect the sofas and the cushions where your cat loves to get cozy. This will make sure that you purge out the fleas from your house for good.