Fleas are a common concern for pet owners. We all love our cats and dogs, and do our best to keep them flea-free, but sometimes these persistent pests can be inevitable. Not only are their bites uncomfortable, but fleas can also carry disease, so some pet owners may worry about the bugs getting on their less furry family members.
Do cats and dogs carry the same kind of fleas?
Pet owners may wonder whether cats and dogs carry the same kind of fleas. There are over 2,000 species. The most common are cat fleas, dog fleas, human fleas, and Oriental rat fleas. Despite the names, each of these species infests many types of animals, so it is possible for dogs to get cat fleas or vice versa.
Most fleas prefer to live and feed on other animals with more fur or hair, however humans can definitely get bitten if fleas are in their home. Their bites are extremely itchy and uncomfortable. Fleas can also transmit illnesses to humans and other animals. While mostly uncommon, it is possible for fleas to pass on cat scratch fever, murine typhus, bubonic plague, tularemia and more. Fleas can also transmit parasites such as tapeworms.
Signs your pet has fleas
If you’re worried about your pet catching fleas, keep an eye out for these common signs. Itchy pets are often the first noticeable sign of fleas in the home. If you notice your pet scratching a lot, you should check for fleas immediately. This can be done by running a fine-tooth comb through their fur, and looking in ears for signs of the bugs. Fleas are known for their extraordinary jumping abilities, so if they are living on your pet, you will see them hop off during the check. Their bites also tend to leave bumps, which may be scabbed over from the pet’s scratch.
Some pets can also have flea allergies, so if you notice red, swollen bumps on your pet, this may be a sign of flea activity. You may be able to observe ‘flea dirt’ or fecal matter on your pet. Another sign can be bites on the humans of the household. Fleabites tend to show up around the ankles first. You may also be able to see fleas if you look closely. They are quite small and quick, but not too small to notice on light colored surfaces.
What to do if your pet catches fleas
To prevent fleas, pet owners should regularly administer topical or oral flea and tick medications. Since fleas can be brought in by neighborhood animals, avoid feeding outdoor cats, squirrels, raccoons, or other animals that may become tempted to spend more time in your yard. Vacuum your home regularly, as fleas enjoy carpet.
If your pet does catch fleas, it is important to have them treated immediately. Fleas reproduce rapidly, and can be difficult to get rid of if left unattended. In addition to treating your pet, you should vacuum frequently, shampoo your carpets, and also have your home treated with a product labeled specifically for fleas.
What about human fleas?
The human flea also makes its home on other animals, and is thought to have originally come from guinea pigs, not humans. However, it can also infest humans, burrowing beneath the skin and reproducing at an alarming rate. Unlike other types of fleas, human fleas do not mind our lack of fur, and will not only feed on humans, but live on them as well.
What to do if you catch human fleas
Most people learn they have fleas by discovering itchy, red bites on their body. These bothersome bites will be enough to cause a host to spring into action. The first thing that you should do if you find you have caught fleas, is to clean yourself and your belongings. Launder all clothes and linens, using detergent, and shower yourself and your pets, using respective flea shampoos. Be sure to use shampoos labeled for humans for yourself, and appropriately labeled shampoos on your pets. If you do not have access to flea shampoo, dish soap makes a good alternative.
To treat the discomfort, try applying lavender oil, aloe vera gel, or calamine lotion topically. If you have any open wounds, be sure to keep them clean and apply ointment. Some essential oils, such as eucalyptus, peppermint and citrus are said to deter fleas. Keep in mind that these methods will not eradicate the infestation, and a chemical treatment will usually still be necessary if the fleas are living in your home. Also remember to check with a vet before using essentials on or around your pets. Many oils can be toxic to pets, especially cats, even if diffused.
You, Me and the Flea
Fleas are one of the oldest pests. It can be difficult to avoid them, and sometimes an infestation comes down to bad luck. While they don’t usually cause disease, the damage they can cause is painful, frustrating, and costly. Don’t ignore the signs of fleas, or wait for them to get any worse. Keep a clean and tidy home and yard, and take action at first itch.
Author Bio: Pat is a pest control enthusiast and founder of Pest Hacks, a website totally devoted to the smartest, most effective ways to defend your home against every kind of creepy crawly under the sun.