Fleas

Fleas are parasitic insects that feed on the blood of their hosts. While they are commonly associated with our pets, humans can often become hosts as well. Their legs are well adapted for jumping and as a result they are very mobile and transferable. Fleas are a concern because they can transmit a number of viral and bacterial diseases to their hosts and their bites can also be very irritating.

Fleas

flea

Size: 2.5mm

Colour: Brownish black to black, may be reddish when full of blood.

Description: Cat fleas are by far the most common species to infest homes and domestic pets in Toronto and the GTA.  Despite their name they will bite dogs and people as well as cats.

It is not necessary to have pets in the building to have fleas present.  Since fleas can jump about 6 inches (15cm) vertically, they can easily hitch a ride on shoes, pants, and other everyday items.  Fleas may also be present even if the building has been vacant of people and animals for as long as 6 months.  This can occur because of the long pupal stage, adult fleas can live for months without food.

Adult female cat fleas lay 4-8 eggs after each blood meal, laying as many as 500 eggs during her lifetime.  Eggs are laid in between hairs or in bedding material, they may be found anywhere as they are prone to falling off the animal.  The eggs will hatch in 1-12 days.  Flea larvae require 1-2 weeks to several months to go through 3 instars.  Last instar larvae then spin a cocoon (pupal stage) and may remain inside for up to 20 weeks.  The adult fleas will emerge from the cocoon (pupa) and seek a blood meal on the second day after emergence.  Adult fleas can survive about one year.

While cat fleas prefer non-human hosts they will readily feed on humans when infestations are heavy or when other hosts are not readily available.  Fleas are carriers of parasites such as tapeworm, which is common in both cats and dogs.  Reactions to flea bites will vary from one person to another, the typical reaction is a small, hard, red, slightly raised, itchy spot.

Flea treatments consist of a three step process.  First all pets should be given a flea bath by a veterinarian or a professional groomer, once treated these pets should not re-enter the infested area until the following steps are completed.  A thorough vacuuming of all carpets should be performed and the vacuum bag should be discarded and the vacuum left out for treatment.  Finally a pesticide application will be required to kill all existing fleas and an Insect Growth regulator will be applied which will inhibit the development of new fleas.