Fleas are holometabolic insects, meaning they develop from egg to larva and pupa to the adult flea. There are over 2000 species of which about 70 species have been detected in Central Europe. In cats and dogs, the most common is the cat flea and more rarely (also in the dog) the dog flea.
They live parasitically in which they suck blood on warm-blooded animals. Contrary to common belief, our dogs and cats are rarely infected with other animals, usually, the infection comes from the environment.
The fleas in dogs and cats are stationary parasites that leave their host in the adult stage only in exceptional cases. The host is a safe source of food. When jumping on another animal, the flea would run the risk of jumping by and possibly starving to death.
A fertilized flea female lays eggs on the host already about 3 hours after the blood meal. A flea female lays on average about 27 pieces/day, maximum 50 / day, up to 3000 in his life. This leads to an explosion of fleas. It is estimated that only about 5% of the population live on the host as an adult flea.
Approximately 95% of the population is distributed as eggs, larvae, and pupae in the environment. The eggs are no bigger than a grain of sand and hardly recognizable without enlargement. These have a very smooth surface and fall down wherever the host moves down.
The flea larvae are sensitive to light and therefore hide in darker areas (under the sofa, in the cracks of the sofa, under the closet, in carpets they walk down into the pile. After 2 skins, the larva pupates. The surface of the doll is so sticky that small dirt particles get stuck quickly. The pupal stage lasts about 8-9 days under normal conditions, in unfavorable conditions a flea can remain pupated up to half a year. Due to heat, vibrations and CO2 increase in the environment, the flea turns out in seconds and jumps on its future host.
A low flea infestation often remains undetected, since except for flea saliva allergy, the itching, in this case, is low. This results in the problem that when the flea infestation is discovered, often the entire environment of the animal is contaminated with flea eggs, larvae and pupae. In case of heavy infestation, fleas cause itching, irritation, and extreme malaise. By swallowing fleas they can transmit tapeworms as the flea serves as an intermediate host. With heavy infestation, even anemia (anemia) can be the result. Also, flea saliva allergies can be triggered. If an animal has a flea saliva allergy, a flea is enough to trigger an extreme itching.
In cats, the flea may have mycoplasma, Bartonella henselae (cat scratch disease pathogen) or Rickettsia felis. The cat scratch disease is a zoonosis (infectious for humans) and causes in humans to various problems: small skin nodules (papules), lymphadenopathy, less often to fever, head and body aches. In immunocompromised people, other complications may also occur.
Itching is the cardinal symptom of flea infestation. Fleas are usually not to be found on an animal with the naked eye. The darker, longer and denser the coat, the more difficult it becomes. The detection of flea feces works very well: with a close-knit comb (flea comb) the animal is combed very close to the skin. Put the combed material on a damp white cloth (eg kitchen towel or handkerchief). Since flea feces mainly consists of undigested blood, the cloth turns reddish around the material. In a fresh or very low flea infestation, however, the test may fail.
It is important to treat all animals in the household with an insecticide to kill adult fleas on the animal. In animals, with flea saliva allergy it is important to use insecticides with a so-called knock-down effect so that the flea dies before the first stitch if possible.
Dogs infested with fleas are easy to spot when you know what you are looking for. In any case, a quick check into the ears of your dog can be more revealing whether your pet has fleas or not. READ MORE about How do you know if a dog has fleas?
Flea bites can be treated with home remedies and over the counter treatments to soothe those bite areas. If you are looking for home remedies you can use a comprehensive guide on how to keep the flea bites off your yard.
Unfortunately, this does not always work and even with the best insecticide all flea females can be killed before the first oviposition, the combination with an insect development inhibitor makes sense. In combination with a developmental inhibitor, a re-oviposition is without consequences.
It is important that the insecticide and developmental inhibitor are regularly applied at intervals specified by the manufacturer. The intensive cleaning of the habitats and habitats of the animals is another important point. You have to have the behavior of animal (where it moves everywhere) and flea larva (seeking the darkness) consider.
Repeated daily suck thoroughly, remove bag (do not forget the car!). Wash or dispose of blankets, sleeping pads, etc. It is important that the animals are not excluded from areas where they were before. Because then you use them as a “flea catcher”. The fleas waiting in the dolls jump on their preferred host but then die by the insecticide on the host.
If you lock the animals, the flea looks for a substitute host – the human! In the event of a significant flea infestation, the environment must also be treated with insecticide, optimally also in combination with a development inhibitor. Remove the bag (do not forget the car!).
Wash or dispose of blankets, sleeping pads, etc. It is important that the animals are not excluded from areas where they were before. Because then you use them as a “flea catcher”. The fleas waiting in the dolls jump on their preferred host but then die by the insecticide on the host.
Reasons for failure of flea control:
It is also important to remember the worm cure after flea control: fleas are tapeworm transmitters!
It is important to carry out a regular flea prophylaxis!
If the animal is not suffering from a flea saliva allergy and living in a low infection pressure environment (cold season, little contact with other animals, a small animal population in the area): in this case, sole use of an insect development inhibitor may be sufficient.
If a flea infestation should occur, the single application of an insecticide is usually sufficient as the flea eggs that were deposited could not develop.
With a higher infection pressure, the regular use of insecticides in combination with an insect development inhibitor is recommended, especially in the warmer months of the year. In winter, possibly only one insect development inhibitor can be used.
In addition, sleeping, lying and favorite places of the animals should be regularly cleaned or washed.
Animals with flea saliva allergy – in these animals the risk of contact with fleas should be minimized as far as possible
Of course, sleeping, lying and favorite places of the animals should be regularly cleaned or washed.
In case of a flea infestation with livestock owners, the consequent flea control in the animal is important as described above! In addition, clothing and bedding should be changed and washed more frequently
Depending on how strong the infestation with fleas is, the disease symptoms are expressed differently. At first the animals only scratch occasionally.
Later it can come to a strong itching and persistent scratching of the animal. The consequences are often skin wounds, inflammation and hair loss. Particularly affected are animals that are allergic to the saliva of the fleas and have a so-called flea stomatitis.
They cause extreme itching all over the body, hair breakage, papules and inflammatory skin changes with crusts. Wet dermatitis can later develop in the area of the tail approach and the painful inflammation can spread to the hind limbs and the abdomen.
Fleas may also transmit pathogens of other diseases to dogs and cats, e.g. The cucumber core tapeworm or the cat scratch disease pathogen. In both cases, people can also be infected.
If an animal scratches regularly, the likelihood that it has fleas is quite high. In order to prevent the fleas from multiplying quickly and permanently contaminate the apartment with eggs, one should react very quickly and immediately introduce the animal to the veterinarian and treat it against fleas.
Not always can the fleas be recognized by the naked eye on the animal, especially in animals with pigmented skin, darker, long or dense fur, the tiny parasites are barely visible.
However, the following test is relatively safe: comb the coat of your animal with an extremely close-crested comb (flea comb) very close to the skin and place the combed material (dander, tallow) on a damp kitchen or handkerchief.
If the cloth turns reddish around the material, this indicates a flea infestation, since fleas excrete small amounts of blood with their feces, which is then combed out and in this way becomes visible.
If your pet dog is infected with fleas, it is necessary to kill existing adult fleas on the animal with a suitable anti-flea preparation as soon as possible.
Not only does this protect the animal from the effects of flea infestation and humans from transmitting fleas, it also prevents existing fleas from laying eggs in the environment that will soon cause new fleas.
Depending on the severity of the infestation, the treatment must be repeated.
Important: In households with several animals, breeds or kennels, all animals should be included in the treatment.
The adult fleas on the animals are usually only a very small part of the problem, the majority is in the form of eggs, larvae, and pupae in the environment of the animal.
Therefore, in the case of a flea infestation that has not been treated promptly, the surrounding eggs, larvae, and pupae should also be fought, especially in the case of severe and/or repeated infestations. For more information, see the section on Environmental Treatment.