Fleas are itchy and annoying for pets as well as humans.

If you’ve ever had even a mild infestation, you know how uncomfortable it is. Early detection is the first step to getting rid of them quickly. Here are a few answers to common questions about fleas that can help.

What are fleas?

Fleas are tiny parasitic insects that bite other animals to feed on blood. They have no wings but an uncanny ability to jump over a foot in distance. A flea may jump from host to host in order to obtain a blood meal. Female fleas lay eggs in batches of about 20 and they can hatch within two days. Immature fleas can mature into adulthood within two weeks and begin feeding. The average lifespan of a flea is about a year and a half and a female can lay thousands of eggs in that time.

What is the effect of a flea bite on humans?

Once bitten by a flea, you may experience a small, itchy, red bump at the site of the bite. Often a cluster of bites may occur in a single location on the body. The bites can remain itchy for several weeks. You may find it helpful to treat the site with anti-itching creams that contain antihistamine or cortisone. Calamine lotion may also help.

How do I know if my pet has fleas?

When bitten by fleas you might notice your pet scratching, licking or chewing excessively. You may notice “flea dirt” on their skin. Flea dirt is flea feces mostly composed of the blood fleas suck out of your pet. Usually dark brown or reddish in color, it may appear as several very small spots or clumps on your pet’s skin. You may notice it most easily on your pet’s belly where the hair is a bit thinner.

Other possible signs of fleas on your pet include scabs, “hot spots” and dermatitis. Your pet might have scabs from the bites themselves but more likely from the excessive scratching that may tear the skin. A “hot spot” is a spot on your pet where they may focus the scratching and chewing. Dermatitis may look like red and inflamed skin or it may look dry and patching with white flaking. Your pet may also experience fur loss and you may see bald patches.

If you suspect a flea infestation, call our practice right away so we can discuss treatment options.