Flea, close up image
Oropsylla Montana ©Kat Masback, Flickr

There are many species of flea but the most common ones Pestend get calls about are dog and cat fleas – no surprise seeing as they’re the ones most often found in homes. While the adult flea lays eggs in the animals’ fur where most stay until they hatch, the larval stage (a small worm-like grub) will often fall off the pet and live off microscopically small particles of food found in the bedding and so on. Once they hatch into fleas, they’ll usually jump back onto a pet – or, occasionally a human host – piercing the skin in order to extract it’s meal of blood and so preparing the cycle all over again.

How do I know if I have fleas in my home?

The way most people find out is by being bitten, unfortunately. Sometimes it’s possible to see them jumping up from a carpeted surface or they’re seen either on the animal or on its bedding (they show up better on a light surface). Either way, once you realise you have fleas it’s certainly time to take action.

What can I do about preventing them?

If the family has a dog or cat and a regular preventative flea treatment isn’t a routine thing then fleas are to be expected so we’d always recommend that a monthly application of an anti-flea compound is applied. Many vets will offer this as part of a care package that would include worming treatments as well as some key health checks so we’d suggest that is the most effective preventative measure.

I have fleas at home. How do I get rid of them?

Fleas – and here, we’ll assume dog or cat – will be concentrated in areas the pet sleeps. It’s rare to find fleas on hard surfaces – they’re easily vacuumed up from such places – but carpet, cushions and other soft furnishings are common hiding places. The most common approach is to apply a water based insecticide to these areas. This is a very low dose – nowhere near dangerous to the pet in question – but as the flea walks over the surface, it picks up microscopic quantities of the chemical that enter its system and kill it in very short order. Note that the flea does have to be mobile for this to work (flea eggs are notoriously hard to destroy with chemicals because they’re immobile and the protective outer coating is pretty tough to penetrate). It follows that, for a short time after treatment, it’s possible that fleas will still be seen moving about and that’s actually desirable: without their movement, they wouldn’t necessarily come into contact with the insecticide.

Sometimes, they’re in items that can’t be treated with an insecticide (imagine a cat that routinely sleeps at the end of someone’s bed, for example) and, in these cases, we’d suggest washing the fabrics in a hot cycle (above 60C) or bagging them and popping them into a deep freeze for a few days; either option will destroy eggs, larval stages and adult fleas.