Fact vs. Fiction: Cat Fleas


February 20, 2014

Cat-FleaFiction: Dogs only get dog fleas, and cats only get cat fleas.
Fact: Dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis) are uncommon in North America. Most dog infestations are actually cat fleas (C. felis). Cat flea hosts include dogs, cats, humans, rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice, chipmunks, opossums, roosting and nesting birds (pigeons, chickens, etc.), raccoons and foxes — just to name a few.

Fiction: Fleas lay eggs on carpets, bedding and in cracks and crevices.
Fact: Adult female fleas require a bloodmeal before loosely laying their eggs in the hair of the host. They lay 15 to 20 eggs per day and about 600 in their lifetime. These eggs are distributed by falling off the host onto bedding, carpets and textiles, grass, sand, gravel, and cracks and crevices. Once they’ve reached pupal stage and spin their cocoons, they can emerge within five to 14 days. Alternatively, they might remain in a resting stage until carbon dioxide (indicating the proximity of a blood source), vibration (animal movement), heat, noise or pressure stimulates them into action.

Fiction: Only the animal needs to be treated for fleas, not the premises.
Fact: Although the eggs are laid only on the animal, the entire environment needs to be addressed. Eggs falling off an animal onto bedding, furniture, carpeting, etc., can hatch, jump back onto the same animal or other animals and begin the cycle anew. In a household or kennel, all the animals should be treated first, then the premises. Traditional treatment consists of a residual insecticide and an insect growth regulator (IGR).

Fiction: Cat flea bites are annoying but rarely a cause for concern.
Fact: In young kittens and puppies, cat flea infestations can result in fatal cases of anemia. Fleas can transmit pathogens such as Rickettsia typhi and Bartonella henselae (cat scratch disease), and are intermediate hosts for double-pore tapeworm. Flea saliva also is responsible for allergic reactions in cats, dogs and humans, manifested in severe itching and hair loss. pmp

You can reach the McGoverns at jeffreymcgovern@mindspring.com

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