Flea on a cat

The most common flea found on cats and dogs is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis), although any species of fleas, including fleas from rabbits, squirrels, or other wildlife, can be found on cats.

“Under ideal conditions, the flea can complete its entire life cycle in as little as two weeks; in adverse conditions, the cycle can take as much as a year.”

Adult fleas live, feed, and mate on our pets; the female flea lays eggs that fall off into the environment where they hatch into larvae. The larvae eat organic debris until they mature into pupae. The pupae may lie dormant for weeks to months, awaiting the ideal environmental conditions before hatching into adults. Newly hatched adult fleas jump onto a host animal to complete their life cycle. Two days after eating a blood meal from the host, the female flea begins to lay eggs. Under ideal conditions, the flea can complete its entire life cycle in as little as two weeks; in adverse conditions, the cycle can take as much as a year.

Where did my cat get fleas?

The most important source of cat fleas is newly emerged adult fleas from flea pupae in your house or yard.

Homes with carpets and central heating provide ideal conditions for the year-round development of fleas. The highest numbers of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae will be found in areas of the house where pets spend the most time, such as their beds and furniture. Even though fleas may be in your house, you probably will not see them.

The eggs are tiny white specks the size of dust particles, while the larvae, which are somewhat larger, with dark heads and lighter bodies, migrate deep down in carpets, furniture, or cracks in floors away from the light.

What effect do fleas have on my cat?

Many cats live with fleas but show minimal signs. However, the following problems can occur:

  • Some cats develop an allergy to flea bites, especially if they are repeatedly bitten. Flea allergic cats groom or scratch excessively after being bitten by even a single flea, and often develop skin infections secondary to this self-trauma.

“Flea allergic cats groom or scratch excessively after being bitten by even a single flea.”

  • Adult fleas live on animals and feed on blood. A single adult flea consumes many times its weight in blood over its lifetime. If a kitten, or a debilitated or older cat, has a lot of fleas, the blood loss can be severe, resulting in anemia.
  • The flea acts as the intermediate host for one species of tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum). This means that the tapeworm must complete part of its life cycle within a flea. Flea larvae become infected by eating tapeworm eggs, and if a cat swallows an infected flea while grooming, the tapeworm larva will develop into an adult tapeworm. Any cat with fleas is likely also to have a tapeworm infestation.

How can I get rid of fleas on my cat?

This can be a challenging task and requires a three-pronged approach. Fleas need to be eliminated from 1) your cat, 2) any other cats and dogs that you have, 3) your home and yard. Even this approach may not give 100% control, since you cannot control some sources of fleas such as other people’s pets, wild animals, or property surrounding yours.

What products are available to treat my cat?

Although most topical insecticides kill adult fleas, many have limited effectiveness because they only work for a few hours after application. This is particularly true of flea shampoos and powders; they kill fleas present on your cat at the time of application but have little lasting effect; the following day the cat may again have fleas. Newer products with excellent residual activity are available from your veterinarian. Some products contain adulticide ingredients (kills adult fleas) with residual activity, while others contain insect growth regulators (IGR’s) that prevent the larval stages from maturing. For best results in a flea infestation, use flea control products that contain an IGR.

ALWAYS READ THE LABEL CAREFULLY – apply the product as instructed and repeat at the intervals stated. Ensure that the product is labelled for use in cats, as some dog products may be poisonous to cats.

My cat hates being sprayed. What can I do?

“Some topical flea products are applied monthly and are highly recommended because they work well and are easy to apply.”

Many cats strongly dislike being sprayed. Consult your veterinarian, as there are several alternatives available. Many cat owners prefer to use topical flea products. These are applied monthly, and are recommended by veterinarians because they work well and are easy to apply.

Flea collars may seem convenient but most do not work well (the exception is flea collars that contain an IGR) and are not generally recommended. Flea collars, especially ones with a strong pesticide smell, may be harmful to some cats, or may cause a skin reaction or rash.

How can I treat my home environment?

A number of different products are available which will kill the adult and larval stages of fleas and stop the flea life cycle, such as:

  • adulticide sprays for use in the house
  • sprays containing insect growth regulators (IGR’s) for use in the house
  • insecticides applied by professional pest control companies

Sprays for use in the house should be used in places where the flea eggs, larvae, and pupae are likely to be. It is recommended that you treat the entire household first and then concentrate on the hot spots – your cat’s favorite napping spots – such as soft furniture, beds, and carpets. Once they hatch from the egg, flea larvae move away from the light and burrow deep into carpets and into other nooks and crannies where they are difficult to reach. Be sure to move cushions, furniture, and beds to spray underneath them. Other places larvae are likely to live include baseboards and the cracks and crevices between floor seams or floorboards.

“You will need to throw away the vacuum bag to prevent eggs and larvae from developing inside the vacuum cleaner.”

Flea eggs and pupae are extremely tough and resistant to the effects of insecticides. To remove these, as well as remove dead fleas, your pet’s bedding should be washed in hot water or replaced.

Regular and thorough vacuuming of your carpets, floors, and soft furnishings can remove a large number of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. You will need to throw away the vacuum bag to prevent eggs and larvae from developing inside the vacuum cleaner. Vacuuming prior to the application of a spray to the house is recommended because the vibrations will encourage newly developed fleas to emerge from pupae, which will then be killed by the insecticide.

How do I choose which products to use?

A flea control program needs to be individually tailored based on the lifestyle of your cat, other pets in your home, and your family situation. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you about safe and effective flea control products.

Are insecticides safe for my cat and my family?

Insecticides for flea control should be safe both for pet dogs, cats, and humans, as long as the manufacturer’s instructions are carefully followed. It is important to avoid combining insecticides with similar modes of action. Always seek your veterinarian’s advice if you are unsure about this and always tell your veterinarian about any flea control products you may be using other than those that have been prescribed.

“Certain types of pets (e.g., birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates) may be particularly susceptible to some products.”

Certain types of pets (e.g., birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates) may be particularly susceptible to some products. Do not use any flea control products in the room in which these pets are kept without first consulting your veterinarian for advice.

I have not seen any fleas on my cat. Why has my veterinarian advised flea control?

One of the most common causes of feline allergic skin disease is flea allergy dermatitis. To eliminate this possibility, your veterinarian may advise rigorous flea control even though no fleas can be found. If the cat’s skin problem improves with flea control, it suggests that flea allergy is involved.

Fleas are easy to find if a cat is heavily infested. If fleas are present in smaller numbers, it can be harder to see them. Fleas move quickly! Try looking on the cat’s stomach, around the tail base, and around the neck.

Sometimes adult fleas cannot be found but flea dirt can be seen. Flea dirt is fecal matter from the flea that contains partially digested blood, and it is a good indicator of the presence of fleas. Flea dirt is seen as small black specks or coiled structures; when placed on a damp, white tissue, the flea dirt dissolves, leaving a reddish brown stain. Flea dirt may be found in cat’s bedding even when fleas cannot be found on the cat.

“Cats are very efficient at removing debris from their coat’s using their tongues and may succeed in removing all evidence of flea infestation such as adult fleas and flea dirt.”

In cats that develop an allergy to fleas, one of the symptoms is excessive grooming. Cats are very efficient at removing debris from their coat’s using their tongues and may succeed in removing all evidence of flea infestation such as adult fleas and flea dirt.

I noticed my cat had fleas after her return from boarding. Did she get fleas there?

Not necessarily! Pre-adult fleas can survive for up to 140 days within their protective pupa. When you or your pets are absent from home for extended periods of time these adult fleas remain in the pupae because no host is available. As soon as you or your pet returns home, these fleas will emerge in large numbers and jump onto cats, dogs, and even people in the search for a blood meal. Vibrations (from walking) and/or increased carbon dioxide (from breathing) will trigger the emergence of fleas from their pupae.

Despite treating my cat for fleas she still has them. Is there a “super flea”?

“Apparent failure of treatment almost always results from improper application of the preventive, inadequate treatment of the home, or exposure to other infested pets or environments.”

There is no evidence of fleas developing resistance to insecticides, especially once-a-month topical flea preventives that contain a sterilizing agent or IGR in addition to the adulticide. Apparent failure of treatment almost always results from improper application of the preventive, inadequate treatment of the home, or exposure to other infested pets or environments. Consider treating storage sheds, cars, and any outdoor sleeping spots. Bear in mind that your cat may be going into other people’s houses. Most of these problems can be overcome by using an effective product with residual activity on the cat in addition to treating your home.

Contributors: Ernest Ward, DVM; updated by Catherine Barnette, DVM © Copyright 2018 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

How To Get Rid of Cat Fleas Safely, Because It’s Not As Simple As You Think

While summer is synonymous with beach parties and backyard barbecues, it’s also prime time for everything creep crawly. Yes, the bugs are back, and not just the kind that bite you. If you’re wondering how to get rid of cat fleas safely, don’t fret: there are some tried and true methods to keep your furry friend flea-free. On the other side of the coin, though, there are also a few things you should avoid doing at all costs. Even if your cat is indoor only, it can still get fleas, which is why it’s necessary to treat both indoor and outdoor cats.

If you’re a new pet parent, you might not know that products approved to treat and prevent fleas on dogs can actually be deadly to cats. This is why it’s important to treat your cat and dog with the something that’s made to work just for them. Some people learn this the hard way, but the more you know up front, the better your chances of a healthy and happy flea-free summer for pets and humans alike.

“Cats are notoriously sensitive to pyrethroids, a common synthetic ingredient used in flea and tick products. These man-made chemicals are related to the pyrethrins, which are natural products derived from the flower of the chrysanthemum plant,” Dr. Jennifer Kvamme wrote for PetMD. “Pyrethroids are typically found in spot-on products made for dogs. They can also be found in sprays meant for treating the home.”


This is why it’s important to carefully read all labels to make sure products you use in your home don’t contain this chemical. If you live in an apartment building that offers in-apartment pest control, ask about the chemicals they’re using. If the products do contain pyrethroids, and you still want to go ahead with it, it might be necessary to remove your cat for a few days during and after treatment.

Have both cats and dogs? Obviously, your dog needs a flea preventative too. When you treat your pets, just make sure to keep felines and canines separated for a couple of hours until the solution is absorbed into their skin. If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid a flea infestation so far, then you might not be aware of some of the signs that your cat has fleas. One of the first things to look for is something called “flea dirt.”

This is basically the excrement of fleas, and if your cat has fleas you’ll notice flea dirt on kitty’s bed and anywhere else kitty lounges around. While fleas will mostly stay on your pet, if the infestations becomes serious you will start to get bites too, generally on your feet and ankles. Don’t panic. Even though fleas are annoying, they’re unlikely to harm you, and you can get rid of them with a few weeks of treatment and vigilant vacuuming.


If you opt for a flea and tick preventative from your vet, read all of the directions carefully to make sure you’re giving your cat the correct dosage for their age and weight. These products are generally applied to the back of kitty’s neck and then absorbed into the skin.

“If you have any concerns, or are unsure about which cat tick and flea control products would be best, ask your veterinarian’s advice, even if you are planning to purchase your flea and tick products from a pet store or online supplier,” Dr. Kvamme advised.

Want to avoid chemicals completely? There are also some all-natch flea remedies you can try such as apple cider vinegar, aloe vera juice, rosemary, lemon spray, essential oils like lavender and eucalyptus, salt, and diatomaceous earth (seriously, this is the best stuff ever), Mike Clark reported for Cattime. Most of these treatments are applied the same way as flea products you can buy at the store or get from your vet.

Food grade diatomaceous earth is an all-in-one treatment for your pets and your home. It’s a fine yet sharp powder that works by suffocating and dehydrating bugs, and a little goes a long way. You can sprinkle it on your cat, around baseboards, doorways, or any other places bugs enter your humble abode. Apartment Therapy recently touted diatomaceous earth as the best way to kill indoor insects, and I agree 100 percent. You can buy it on Amazon, and one bag can last you years.


No matter what type of flea treatment you opt for, make sure to watch your cat closely for a few hours after you apply it. Even if you use a treatment marked safe for cats, just like their human parents, some feline friends are more sensitive to chemicals and oils than others.

What’s more, if your cat does get fleas, you’ll also want to treat them for tapeworms because cats can acquire tapeworms from accidentally ingesting fleas, according to PetMD. You can buy products to get rid of tapeworms at most pet stores.

Even if you’re treating your cat for fleas, it’s a good idea to brush kitty regularly with a flea comb to check for fleas and flea dirt. Depending on what part of the country you live in, fleas can be abundant and might turn up even if you’ve done everything right — take it from someone who’s been there more than once. While fleas are definitely a nuisance, this is a classic case of the cliche an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How to Get Rid of Fleas in Your Home

Did you know the fleas you see on your pet only make up 5% of the total flea population in your home? Flea eggs and larvae hide deep in the fibers of your carpeting, furniture and even your pet’s bed. Those you see are just a small fraction of the flea community making your home their home! These various stages of the flea life cycle are difficult to conquer. The sooner you take action, the safer your pet, home and family will be.

Follow the steps below to prevent a spring flea infestation!

Treat your pet

To immediately kill existing, biting fleas on your pet, try a fast-acting product such as Capstar. Using a flea preventative, such as NexGard Chewables each month can stop fleas from jumping back on your pet.

Recommended Oral Preventatives

Recommended Topical Preventatives

Kill fleas in your home & yard

  • Sweep tile or wood floors, and vacuum carpets, rugs, and furniture.
  • Use carpet spray – Spray carpets and upholstery in the home. Fleas love dark places, so spray under furniture and in crevices.
  • Fog your house – Some foggers are effective up to 7 months, long enough to kill all the life stages of a flea in most cases. You may need to use 2-3 foggers depending on the size of your home. Learn how to fog your home.
  • Spray your yard – Kill fleas with a yard spray before they come into your home on your shoes, clothing or pet with a yard spray.

Tip: In order to kill all the flea life stages, you MUST treat your home and yard again – 3 to 4 weeks after your first treatment.

Thoroughly clean your home

Cleaning your home is a very important step to eradicating a flea problem. Vacuuming, sweeping and mopping help get the eggs, larvae, and pupae out of your carpets, upholstery, tile, and wood floors.

  • Throw away the bag each time you vacuum. Flea pupae will hatch inside the bag from the vibrations your vacuum causes.
  • Sweep & mop tile or wood flooring. Since fleas love dark places, they can live in your baseboards as well.
  • Wash your pet’s bedding – Fleas love to nest in the same place your pet does to keep feeding on him or her. Don’t just take the cover off of your pet’s bed, since fleas can be hiding in the stuffing as well.
  • Wash your pet’s toys – Fleas and eggs will hide in your pet’s toys. If you can’t wash one of your pet’s toys, it is best to throw it out.

Tip: Wash all of your and your pet’s belongings in hot water to kill fleas and flea eggs.

…And don’t forget to prevent it from happening again!

Flea infestations are very hard to get rid of. It’s not uncommon to see fleas days or even weeks after treating your home. Keep your pet on flea preventatives to keep fleas and ticks at bay.

Choosing a heartworm and flea medicine for dogs will depend on if your dog spends most of the time indoors or outdoors. If your pet’s exposure to ticks is unlikely, Trifexis (a popular flea heartworm pill for dogs) or Sentinel may be your two best heartworm and flea prevention options. If you’re concerned about ticks, Revolution provides heartworm protection and will kill ticks, along with fleas and their eggs, roundworms and hookworms.

How to Help Get Rid of Fleas on Your Cat

You see your cat as a companion. Fleas see them as a tasty snack. Whether your cat has been with you for years or just showed up outside your house, fleas have a way of inviting themselves inside, too. As fleas are the number one skin parasite of cats and dogs, you are your pet’s number one champion when it comes to fighting fleas.

How to tell if your cat has fleas

If you’re not sure if your cat is under attack, check for these signs:

  • Excessive grooming — making fleas difficult to find
  • Red bumps or scabs, specifically along neck and back
  • Shaking head
  • Restless behavior
  • Losing fur
  • Brown parasites jumping or crawling in fur

Finding fleas on your cat can be shocking. A clean home and well-cared for cat may still be subject to infestation. Even more shocking? The fleas you see are adults, representing only a small percentage of a flea infestation. The majority is hidden in immature stages, such as eggs or larvae, that you can’t see developing in and around your house.

Treat your cat

Now that you’ve identified what’s bugging your cat, you can begin to address the problem through a variety of options.

  • Remove fleas with a flea comb — dip comb in a mixture of dish soap and water to kill fleas on comb
  • Bathe your kitten or cat with a specially-formulated flea shampoo
  • Treat your cat with a flea spray
  • Use a flea preventive year-round
  • Inspect and comb weekly to monitor a flea infestation on your cat

Flea preventives help discourage fleas from coming back. Effective flea prevention can be achieved through collars, topical or oral products that can last anywhere from 30 days to 8 months. Choose the prevention method that works best for you and your cat.

Ongoing vigilance combined with flea protection and prevention is the key to success. It may take a few months to help get rid of fleas and break the flea life cycle so don’t get discouraged. Even continuing to see a flea or two on your cat from time to time does not mean the products aren’t working.

  • Check your cat at least weekly with a flea comb and look for signs of itching and scratching
  • Set reminders to apply or administer treatment and prevention products according to product labels.
  • Consider where and with whom your cat interacts to determine the risk of flea infestation

Treat all your pets

More cats? Family dog? If one pet has fleas, they may all have fleas. Apply preventives to every pet in your home – both indoor and outdoor pets – to help keep an infestation from spreading and reduce the risk of future flea infestations.

Treat your environment

Fleas don’t have set territories and aren’t confined to your cat. Flea eggs roll off your pet and scatter around your home and yard. Adult fleas are only a small portion of a flea infestation, so a few extra steps to treat your home and yard can further help reduce the risk of additional flea infestations.

Fleas are small, but mighty. They can reproduce quickly and easily hop on other house pets or wildlife. Help your cat by keeping a watchful eye for reinfestation and remember to regularly use a flea preventive year-round.

Flea & Tick Life Cycle
Flea Diseases in Cats
How to Help Get Rid of Fleas in Your Home
How to Help Get Rid of Fleas on Your Dog

by Soojin Um
Staff Writer

Fleas – the bane of any pet’s existence. However, your cat is an indoor-only cat, so you don’t have anything to worry about, right? Well, not so fast. Indoor cats can get fleas (and other pests, such as ticks) just like outdoor cats can. A home is not a sealed environment – people come and go, doors and windows open and close. Even window screens are not complete guarantees. Despite our best efforts, fleas can still enter the home, and thus, onto your cats. So what can we do? Here are some tips and ideas that can help you protect your cats from discomfort, scratching, and disease.

First, how do these little buggers get inside the house in the first place? It turns out, pretty easily. Fleas can hang on to shoes or clothes, and when you return from the outdoors, you can unwittingly carry fleas into your home. The same can happen if you also have dogs. Dogs are the primary way fleas get into a house. So even if your cat is strictly indoors, fleas can hitch a ride on your dog and come inside. Fleas aren’t just attracted to dogs and cats, they live and feed on many mammals. If your house has a mouse or rat problem, they may bring fleas in as well. Those fleas then jump off the rodents and onto your cats.

Also, your cat may be an indoor cat but there are times when they have to leave the house. For example, you may have taken your cat to the vet recently, or to the groomer’s. Perhaps even you had your cat boarded while you went on vacation. Any place where other dogs and cats congregate can be a haven for flea eggs and larvae. These then can get attached to your clothes or your cat’s fur, and then when you come home, it’ll become ground zero for an infestation.

If your cat scratches and bites on their fur often, there’s a good chance he might have fleas. You’ll want to make sure it’s fleas and not just allergies by checking the skin. Fleas usually camp out behind the cat’s head, along the back, and the tummy area. Even if you don’t see fleas, you might find “flea dirt” which are the flea’s… well, poop. That’s a sure sign that fleas are present.

The best course of action is to take your cat to the vet. Your vet will be able to prescribe the best topical or oral flea medicine to deal with the problem. Nitenpyram (known by its brand name Capstar) kills fleas very fast. Spinosad (Comfortis) is also effective in killing fleas, and Spinosad continues to kill fleas for up to a month. Lufenuron is another medicine where it prevents flea eggs from surviving. When fleas feed on blood that has been treated with lufenuron, the eggs will not hatch.

If you’re looking at topical treatments, the most popular brands are Frontline and Advantage. These are applied to the back of the neck where it becomes absorbed by the skin. Each dose will kill fleas for a whole month, at which point you can apply another dose if needed. Also, most vets do not recommend sprays, powders, and collars. These products have minimal effectiveness, and the chemicals contained in them may do more harm to your cat’s health than good.

Fleas can be a big problem for your furry family members, even for those who stay indoors. Some cats have allergic reactions to fleas on top of the itching and discomfort. Fleas can also transmit parasites, such as tapeworms, to humans. Checking for fleas and taking measures to prevent them are important practices in ensuring the health of your cats, your family members, and you.

Please let us know your thoughts on this topic and/or give us feedback here or on Facebook.

Cat Fleas on Humans

If cat fleas are removed from their animal host, or if that host proves an insufficient food source, cat fleas often will bite humans on the lower legs, leaving round, red spots. Today, most cat flea bites result in minor itchiness and discomfort on humans.

After receiving a flea bite, if possible refrain from scratching the affected area. Lotions and anesthetic creams can be used to address itching depending on the person’s skin sensitivity to these products. Ice packs lessen swelling caused by a cat flea bite. To reduce risk of infection, wash the cat flea bites with antiseptic soap. Antihistamines may also be administered depending on their medical status.

Some individuals may experience allergic reactions when bitten by a cat flea. Symptoms of an allergy include excessive itching and secondary infections. Individuals experiencing allergic reactions should stay away from infected areas and pets until treatment proves effective.

If there are any medical questions, a doctor should be contacted. A medical professional should also be consulted if you suspect that a cat flea bite has become infected.

More than 60 percent of households in the United States have pets, and half of the dogs get to share their beds with people. With our furry family members living in such close quarters with us, we are at greater risk for catching diseases from our pets, known as zoonotic diseases.

While several of these creepy crawlies have had their time in the media spotlight, what about the common flea? Can humans get fleas from their pets? Find out the answer to that question and what you can do about it.

Can Humans Get Fleas From Their Dogs?

Yes, humans can get fleas from their dogs and other pets. If you’ve ever walked across the carpet and noticed a dark speck on white socks that suddenly appears then vanishes, that speck probably was a flea.

While pets undoubtedly enrich our lives in innumerable ways, this close proximity has put us at greater risk for sharing ectoparasites, such as the flea. But don’t fret just yet; the possibility of getting fleas yourself is not reason to put your pup in the dog house.

There are thousands of species of fleas, and most animals have a specific flea species that prefers that animal as its host. While the flea that dogs typically carry can—and do—jump over to humans and bite us, the dog flea cannot survive on humans.

First, dog fleas need dog blood to eat. Second, humans aren’t hairy enough to provide ample hiding coverage or the warm environment that dog fleas seek in a home.

Most fleas figure this out quickly and will return to your pup or seek a safer spot in your home. This makes treating your home a key part of flea prevention and treatment not to overlook.

What to Do If You Spot Fleas

Flea bites—and fleas—are pretty distinctive. If you see dark small bugs that hop, instead of flying, and find yourself with bites, it is most likely fleas.

Unlike mosquito bites, flea bites remain small. If a flea bites you, you might see one or more of the following:

  • bites that appear as small, red bumps
  • a red “halo” around the bite center
  • bites in groups of three or four, or in a straight line
  • bites that appear around the ankles or legs

In humans, flea bites do not require specific treatment. Washing the area with soap and water, applying anti-itch cream as necessary, and avoiding the temptation to scratch will lead to quicker relief and healing.

In dogs, however, apart from irritation, fleas can lead to hot spots or cause anemia in heavy infestations, especially in young or debilitated dogs. In addition, certain fleas can carry several diseases, including the bubonic plague, and act as vectors to spread one of the most common tapeworms of the dog and cat.

While this can sound alarming, remember fleas on humans for more than a bite or two are rare. If you do spot fleas on yourself or your dog, it is best to initiate treatment right away and get a fecal exam for your dog.

Flea Treatment for Pets

Dogs and cats can share the same fleas, so it is important that all pets in your home are on a flea preventive. Treating your pets for fleas has never been easier, and many options are available for pets of all ages, as well as for your home, which range from do-it-yourself flea bombs to hiring professional exterminators.

How do I prevent fleas on my dog?

Successful flea control starts with prevention. Popular vet-recommended options for cat and dog flea treatments include Frontline Plus, Seresto and K9 Advantix II.

What about my home environment?

Environmental preparations for flea control are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Remember, however, that most products are effective against only the adult flea.

Products that contain Insect Growth Regulators (IGR) will help destroy the flea eggs and larvae. Before applying any environmental product, vacuum all floors to stimulate the pre-adult fleas to emerge from their protective cocoons. And be sure to discard the vacuum cleaner bag after its use.

My dog mostly lives outside. What should I do?

Fleas prefer tall grass and shaded areas near decks, woodpiles or storage buildings, so concentrate on these areas. Spray a product containing an IGR and repeat every 14-21 days for three to five applications.

The fleas came back! Why? What did I do wrong?

Before fleas reach their adult stage, they can survive within a cocoon for up to nine months. During this time, they are resistant to insecticides applied to the environment. This is important to remember because adult fleas may emerge into the environment a considerable time after you apply insecticides in your home.

Sharing your home and heart with your four-legged family means that when your dog has fleas, the pests likely will try to bite you, too. Keep dogs and cats free of fleas and flea bites by administering prevention medication year-round and taking flea treatment seriously at the first sign.

By: Dr. Laci Schaible, DVM, CVJ

Featured Image: Via iStock.com/AfricaImages


4 Surprising Flea Diseases You Need to Know

By Lynne Miller

It’s easy to dismiss fleas. Unlike ticks, which are famous for causing Lyme disease in dogs and people, fleas don’t seem all that threatening. Mostly, we see the tiny bloodsuckers as a nuisance for pets and for us, not a serious threat to anyone’s health.

However, fleas can transmit a surprising number of diseases to animals and humans. Fleas can cause serious harm to you and your pet’s health through their bites and when they are ingested (such as when self-grooming) by the animals they target.

Here are four flea diseases you need to be aware of:

Murine Typhus

Rats are the main carrier for the type of flea that carries Murine typhus, but cats that come into contact with infected fleas can bring these disease vectors home. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, humans usually get typhus from a flea bite. When the bugs bite, they usually defecate at the same time.

A type of bacteria found in the feces, Rickettsia typhi, enters the body through the bite wound or from a person scratching the bite area.

Signs of typhus include headache, fever, nausea, and body aches. Five or six days after the initial symptoms, you may notice a rash that starts on the trunk of your body and spreads to your arms and legs. If you think you have murine typhus, see a doctor as soon as possible, the Texas Department of State Health Services says. The disease can be treated with antibiotics, but if you wait too long, you may need to be hospitalized. If left untreated, the disease may linger for several months.

Cases of murine typhus are found in hot, humid areas with large rat populations. Texas health authorities saw 324 cases in 2015, including one death, said Chris Van Deusen, press officer for the Texas Department of State Health Services. At least one death from murine typhus has occurred in Texas each year since 2012.

“A delay in seeking treatment can lead to worse outcomes, which can happen since the symptoms are pretty general,” Van Deusen said. “Other conditions, like diabetes, kidney disease, and a history of alcohol abuse are associated with more severe” cases.

To date this year, the California Department of Public Health has received reports of 14 cases of murine typhus, none fatal, from four counties, a spokesman for the department said. In a typical year, the state sees about 50 cases, primarily in the suburbs of Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Elsewhere, murine typhus is rare.

“In the Pacific Northwest, it’s almost nonexistent,” says Dr. Lee Herold, chief medical officer for the DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland, Oregon.

Mycoplasma haemofelis

Mycoplasma haemofelis (M. haemofelis) is a parasitic bacterial disease that is transmitted to cats through flea bites, as well as tick and mosquito bites. An infection of the red blood cells, M. haemofelis can cause fever and anemia in cats, Herold says. There is also some evidence that M. haemofelis can infect humans, especially those with compromised immune systems. Because fleas are equal opportunity feeders, an infected flea can transmit the parasite to both you and your pet.

M. haemofelis attaches to the infected cat’s red blood cells, which leads to the body’s immune system treating the red blood cells as foreign, marking them for destruction. This destruction of large numbers of red blood cells frequently leads to anemia, Herold says.

Veterinarians often prescribe antibiotics to treat the affected animals. In severe cases, cats may require a blood transfusion followed by antibiotics.

“Some cats need steroid medications to prevent the immune system from attacking its own red blood cells,” Herold says. Treatment can take four to six weeks.


One of the most loathsome parasites, tapeworms make themselves at home in the intestines of dogs, cats, and humans. Pets can get tapeworms by swallowing infected adult fleas, which can occur when animals groom themselves or other animals. Cats can also get the disease by eating infected mice, Herold says.

While extremely uncommon in adults, children may get infected by accidentally swallowing an infected flea, which they can encounter while playing outdoors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children and pets pass segments of tapeworms, known as proglottids, during bowel movements.

Treating tapeworms in pets and humans is easy. For both species, a drug called praziquantel is given either orally or, for pets only, by injection, according to the CDC. The medication causes the tapeworm to dissolve within the intestine.

Cat Scratch Disease

This disease is interesting. Bartonella henselae (B. henselae), the bacteria that causes cat scratch fever, is fairly common in felines. According to the CDC, about 40 percent of cats, especially kittens, have the bug at some point in their lives.

Some cats develop serious symptoms. The CDC recommends taking your cat to the veterinarian if it is vomiting, seems lethargic, has red eyes, swollen lymph nodes, or a decreased appetite.

Many cats never get sick and those that do typically have a fever for two or three days and then recover completely. So your cat may seem perfectly healthy, but can still make you sick. “A human might get cat scratch fever even if the cat doesn’t present symptoms,” Herold says.

Cats pass the disease on to humans by biting or scratching a person hard enough to break the skin, or by licking on or near wounds or scabs, the CDC says.

In an unusual case covered by several media outlets last year, Janese Walters of Toledo, Ohio, woke one morning to blindness in one eye. After a month of tests, doctors couldn’t determine what caused the blindness—until the woman told them about her cat. They were then able to trace the infection to the B. henselae bacteria and concluded she had cat scratch disease, and that she had lost her sight in one eye after her cat licked her eye.

In rare cases of human infection, the disease can affect the brain, eyes, heart, or other internal organs, though these complications are more likely to occur in children under the age of five and in people with compromised or weakened immune systems, the CDC says.

Next: How to Keep Fleas Away from Your Home

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The term for a type of medication that impacts immunity, metabolism, sexual characteristics, and other such elements of a living thing


A type of parasitic worm; it is flat and made up of segments


The parts of a tapeworm that do not involve the head


The term for mice and rat-like rodents

lymph nodes

Small structures that filter out the lymph and store lymphocytes


A condition of the blood in which normal red blood cell counts or hemoglobin are lacking.

DEAR JOAN: Is there a brand of “super fleas” or is the substance to control them watered down?

We have medicated our two cats three times, and “bombed” the house twice in the last month. This past Friday, we dosed the cats and bombed the house again. On Monday, the fleas were back.

We have always had two cats, and the last time we had a problem was 20 years ago. I recall that the bombs then were rated specifically for fleas and did an excellent job with one application. Now the foggers are rated for fleas, ants, spiders, ticks, roaches, locusts and on and on, and are not doing the job.

The people at the pet store say that I have to bomb every two weeks, spray the yard, and hand spray all the cracks and crevices in all the rooms. Our six grandchildren are getting bitten whenever they visit to the point where their parents are avoiding coming by.

Do you have any suggestions, or can you tell me where I can rent a flame-thrower?

Jack Nolan, Bay Area

DEAR JACK: Don’t strike that match just yet.

Having a flea infestation in your home can be difficult to overcome, but continually bombing your house and dosing your cats without doing some other things is exposing you, your cats and your grandchildren to a lot of chemicals that, despite your experience, are more powerful than ever.

I endorse a concept known as Integrated Pest Management. It adheres to a philosophy of doing the least lethal, invasive things first and using chemicals as a last resort.

In California, the most likely flea to find on your pets, cats or dogs, is the cat flea. They are about an eighth of an inch long, reddish-brown, wingless and have a sort of flattened appearance.

The adult cat fleas live on our pets, feeding, mating and laying eggs — up to 50 a day. The eggs are pearly white and oval shaped. They can hatch on your pet but most fall off.

While it can seem like your entire house is infested, most of the fleas hang out where your cats sleep, and in carpeting.

To combat them, you’ll need to thoroughly clean your house. Vacuum rugs and carpets, and immediately throw away the bag (or empty containers into plastic bags and toss them in the garbage). Mop all your bare floors, making sure to focus on the baseboards or any area where fleas might lurk or lay eggs. Be sure to wash the cats’ bedding in hot water, and if the cats sleep on your bed, wash your own sheets, blankets and comforters.

Talk to your vet about a monthly flea treatment for your cats. If possible, bathe your cats, but regardless, buy a metal flea comb and groom them every day to remove fleas and eggs.

You might have fleas in your yard, but if you treat your cats for fleas, you probably don’t need to treat your yard. You can check the level of infestation by donning a pair of knee-high white socks and walking around the yard. The fleas will be attracted to the socks and you’ll be able to see them. If you need to use an insecticide, use it only in the areas where your or the neighbor cats hang out.

You’ll need to continue the cleaning ritual, but in the future you can concentrate mainly in the areas where the cats sleep.

Fleas live everywhere in the world except the Arctic—so it’s no surprise we have to do battle with them no matter where we live. And for many, it’s now a year-round concern. Summer is typically thought of as peak “flea season,” but milder winters, along with central heat and carpeting, have led to more fleas, more often. Pet parents and pet sitters alike are understandably frustrated. Do we have super-fleas on our hands?

Is the flea evolving?

You’ve tried all the usual suspects, from Frontline to Advantage, and the fleas keep coming back. Are fleas resistant to standard flea treatments? Mutant fleas??

Well, probably not. Or at least, not yet! What’s more likely happening is that the fleas are sticking around in the environment, and that even if they die off on your dog, the root problem hasn’t been addressed.

Only 5 percent of the total flea population actually live on our dogs—the rest just set up camp in our pet’s bedding and huddle under the furniture. They hang out in the moist and shady spots outside and just lie in wait. And occasionally, they jump 10-12 inches high and grab on for dear life.

All fleas can be super

In short, “super fleas,” are really just well-nourished, everyday fleas. Given the right conditions, ALL fleas have the potential to be super fleas. They’re stubborn, and they’ll stick around!

What’s a pet parent to do? Stay on top of flea treatments, year-round, and be vigilant. Fortunately, there are more options for treatment than there used to be. We’ve detailed some below, and you can find more here.

Oral options for treatment

Capstar for dogs and cats: around $30 for 6 doses


  • Kills adult fleas quickly
  • Side effects are rare
  • No mess
  • No prescription required


  • Doesn’t kill flea eggs or larvae
  • Pets may not take pill willingly

Comfortis for dogs and cats: around $95 for 6 doses


  • Kills adult fleas quickly
  • Long-lasting effects
  • No mess


  • May cause vomiting
  • Serious reactions are rare, but possible
  • Requires a prescription

Many vets advise that these oral medications are more effective than the standard topical treatments, but you should consult your vet to decide what’s right for your dog. Natural remedies are also available. You can get a full list of flea treatment options here.

Whichever flea treatment you choose, remember to follow the directions. Pay attention to the weight determined dosage and keep track of your treatment dates. All treatments must be applied on time and correctly to be effective.

But what about our house? It’s like a flea bag hotel.

First, evict the super flea tenants from your poor, powerless dog. Then take the battle to the house.

The flea is predictable and lazy. It’s snoozing in your pet’s bed. It hates the sun and prefers the dark, dingy corners.

So, wash your pet’s bedding regularly. Toss away old stuffed toys. Vacuum carpeting daily, especially under the furniture and in the corners. Toss the pillows and cushions in the wash if you can. If you have done all of this and your ankles are still itching, you may want to hire a professional bounty-hunter like Orkin to pay the Super Flea one last visit.

Hero image: Flickr / Matt Brown

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

Super fleas with giant PENISES to invade UK homes – here’s how you can keep them out

Billions of super fleas with giant PENISES are set to invade UK homes and offices – but people can take steps to keep them out.

Breeding conditions for the pests are ideal following recent hot and humid weather which has spawned violent thunderstorms.

Pest experts have warned it could be a summer of itching and scratching for those whose homes are infiltrated.

There’s been a surge in numbers of an ‘uber flea’ where the male has a penis two and a half times bigger than its body.

It’s the biggest penis, relative to size, on the planet.

Fleas normally bite humans around the ankles and legs (Image: WESSEX NEWS AGENCY) The super flea warning applies especially to those with cats and dogs (Image: WESSEX NEWS)

This past winter was severe with freezing temperatures and relentless snow, but the fleas survived.

They can lie dormant during cold weather and come to life as soon as it hots up, multiplying rapidly.

They usually hitch a ride into homes on dogs and cats – especially those who roam areas where flea-infested rodents, badgers, foxes or rabbits have been – and then burrow into carpets and furniture where the males mate with as many females as they can.

Cats and dogs can carry the super fleas into their owners’ homes

Females can lay up to 50 eggs a day. They hatch in a few days and can live for several months, allowing the population to explode.

Ged Cranny, store manager at Pets at Home in Weymouth, Dorset, said there could be a mass flea invasion this summer unless people take steps to keep them out.

Pet owners should check their homes, as well as their dog or cat, for a flea infestation.

Mr Cranny said fleas can live within bedding as well as soft furnishings used by the whole family.

People don’t normally notice an infestation until they are bitten (Image: WESSEX NEWS)

He advised all pet owners to:

  • Wash pet bedding regularly at 60 degrees
  • Clean furniture to help destroy fleas at each stage of their life cycle
  • Vigorously hoover carpets, floorboards and skirting boards
  • Throw away the vacuum cleaner dustbag after each clean
  • Check their pet’s coat for fleas or flea droppings – brown or black spots
  • Regularly treat your pet with a flea treatment throughout the year
  • Treat your home annually with a household flea spray to prevent infestations

A spokesman for pest controllers Basis Prompt warned: “The activity and behaviour of fleas is often very much dependent on the climate.

“As they thrive in a warm and humid environment, they’re likely to be present in greater numbers than usual during the next few weeks.

“The population of fleas seems to have grown rapidly in recent years, but the risk of an infestation could be bigger than ever this summer.”

Fleas can spread rapidly as they mate inside an infested home (Image: WESSEX NEWS)

The first sign of an infestation usually comes when pets are constantly scratching, or when people – or their guests – start itching inside their homes.

The Basis Prompt spokesman added: “Bite marks are usually around the ankles or legs, often leave small red spots which are itchy.

“And, if you do have fleas in your home, you may even see them jumping on your carpet or furniture.”

The spokesman urged people to check their pets for fleas or ‘flea dirt’, adding: “It can be confirmed by brushing back their hair and finding either fleas or droppings.

“With dark-coated pets, it may be better to comb them over a light coloured bed sheet or towel to highlight any fleas or their droppings as they fall.

“The identity of the black specks may be confirmed by adding a few drops of water. If they turn red, your pet has fleas.”

The pest controller warned: “Fleas found on pets are usually only a small part of a bigger issue, as the vast majority of an infestation is probably living in the house.

“Anyone treating their pet must be sure to treat their home thoroughly at the same time or the problem is highly likely to return.

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Just like 2ft monster rats which have mutated and are now immune to poisons, scientists have found the super fleas can defy shop-bought powders, Basis Prompt said.

In the last 15 to 20 years, warm, damp summers and mild winters, along with better central heating and house insulation, have made life cosy for fleas, bed bugs and head lice all year round, and their numbers have jumped.

Pharmacists at Chemist Direct have reported a jump in sales of Anthisan flea bite cream.

But experts blame pet owners for not applying anti-louse treatments properly.

The life cycle of some fleas can be up to 12 months, even in empty flats and houses, warns the British Pest Control Association.

A spokesman said: “They have an ability to go into a sort of suspended animation.

“Even if you go into a flat which has been unoccupied for a year, their cocoons can be set off again by the carbon dioxide in people’s breath.”

A recent study by Dr Tim Nuttall, veterinary dermatologist at the University of Liverpool, found the UK flea population has been rising for years but it’s increased dramatically since 2013.

He found that’s down almost entirely to the cat flea which, despite its name, will live off dogs, ferrets and humans too.

Bites should be washed with soap and water and then an antiseptic cream should be applied. If the bite is painful or swollen, people are urged to take a painkiller such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, and use an antihistamine cream such as Anthisan.

The RSPCA says that a flea can live from between 14 days up to one year, with the female laying up to 50 eggs a day, although they can survive without a host for many months.