Dog Flea

Dog Flea

Scientific Name: Ctenocephalides canis

How to identify a dog flea

Fleas are small, wingless insects and species range in size from 1 – 10 millimetres. They are easily recognised by the majority of the world’s population, especially those who own cats or dogs.
The identifying characteristics of fleas are:

  • A laterally compressed body,

  • Greatly enlarged hind legs which enable them to jump long distances,

  • Piercing-sucking mouthparts,

  • Strong tarsal claws which enable them to grasp their hosts, and,

  • Rear pointing hairs and bristles to allow for easy movement through the host’s hair or fur.

Where are cat fleas commonly found?

Anywhere there are dogs and/or cats are the places where you will most likely find fleas. However, sometimes there are no animals on site but there may be some on adjacent properties. Some people say that they are having problems with “sand fleas” or “grass fleas” but they are really cat or dog fleas as all fleas need an animal host of some type.

Why are dog fleas considered a pest?

A few fleas on adult dogs or cats cause little harm unless the host becomes allergic to substances in the flea's saliva. The disease that results from allergy is called flea allergy dermatitis. Small animals with large infestations can lose enough bodily fluid to fleas feeding that dehydration may result. Cat fleas also may be responsible for disease transmission through humans, and have been suspected as transmission agents of plague. Severe flea infestations can result in anemia due to blood loss.

What is the biology and lifecycle of a dog flea?

Adult fleas mate on their animal host and the resultant nonadhesive eggs fall to the ground beneath. After a blood meal, a female flea can lay 15 – 20 eggs a day and up to 600 in a life time. The eggs hatch in about two days to two weeks into larvae which are found indoors in cracks and crevices, along skirting boards, under rug edges and in furniture or beds. Outdoors, development may take place in a number of locations including kennels, sub-floors and shaded, grassy areas. They especially like sandy gravel soils but can’t exist in dry sunny spots.

Management Tips for Dog Flea

There are three essential co-ordinated, simultaneous steps to a successful flea treatment:

  • Pet treatment,

  • Premises cleaning, and,

  • Insecticide application.

First of all though, we should carry out an inspection of the property. This may seem unnecessary but the homeowner may not really have fleas after all and we need to be certain of the pest identification before we proceed. In a bad infestation, you may not need to even enter the front gate as sometimes the fleas come out to greet you! This is a rare phenomenon fortunately. Just a quick walk through the house should reveal the presence of fleas, especially if you are wearing white socks over your shoes. Make sure that you tuck your trousers into the top of the socks to avoid flea bites. Check for “hot spots” where you can concentrate your chemical application.

You must insist that the client has any animals treated before your application. A Veterinary Surgeon should be consulted for advice on the best product for the job.

A thorough vacuuming or steam cleaning of all interior floor surfaces must take place before you start spraying. Vacuuming will pick up eggs and all stages of the life cycle although larvae tend to “hold on” to carpet fibres and you may only pick up around 20% of the total. The larvae spend the vast majority of the time at the base of the carpet fibres whereas at pupation time, they move higher up the fibres. Vacuuming will also remove dried blood faeces, a major larval food source. All items must be picked up from the floor to ensure best access. Special attention must be paid to where lint and pet hair accumulate and under and in furniture where pets sleep. Make sure that the vacuum bag is thrown in the garbage bin or bag less cleaners are emptied into a garbage bag which is subsequently discarded. Any pet bedding should be thrown away, washed or dry cleaned.

Outdoors, the grass must be closely mown to enable thorough treatment. Advise the person mowing to apply insect repellent before starting. Soil areas may need to be dampened down to enable the insecticide to penetrate. Always read the insecticide label thoroughly and follow all recommendations listed before commencing your treatment.


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