a flea on a persons arm

To many, fleas seem like a pet problem that only causes simple discomfort; however, there are more than 2,500 flea species in the world, and a few can affect human health. Despite what the name might indicate, the cat flea is the most common flea found on pets. Other common fleas that can affect humans include dog fleas, ground squirrel fleas, and rat fleas. Though there are small variations, they can mostly be identified in the same ways.

a flea on a dog
a person inspecting a pet and finding a flea

How To Identify Fleas

Identifying these tiny parasites isn’t terribly easy considering they can range from 1/12 to 1/6 of an inch long, but if you can manage to extract or find a dead one, look for these physical characteristics:

  • Dark reddish-brown

  • Six-legged with two short antennae and no wings

  • Flat from the top, apostrophe-shaped from the side

  • Extremely long back legs with backward-pointing bristles that are used for jumping and moving through fur and hair swiftly

Other signs of an infestation include scratching, hair loss, and red bumps. Black specks, or flea feces, may also be present on pet beds or carpets. Flea larvae are a little harder to spot. Fleas will lay eggs in the fur of their host so that they fall off and hatch throughout the house. They may land and grow in discreet places like in the cracks between floorboards or behind furniture.

Flea bites look different from other common household pest bites. If you suspect that your or your pet’s itchy red bumps are caused by fleas, they have some other unique characteristics:

  • They appear in clusters, usually in groups of three or four, or in a straight line.

  • They don’t swell like mosquito bites.

  • Most commonly found around the ankles or legs, waist, groin, armpits, and in the folds of elbows and knees.

  • Red bumps have a pink or red “halo” that spreads out around the bite’s center.

Fleas Are A Household Health Hazard

The four common flea species are all hazards to human and pet health, with a few unique distinctions among them. According to the CDC, the cat flea (the most common pet flea) can transmit murine typhus and cat-scratch disease and can spread plague bacteria, though not as effective as other flea species. The dog flea can spread a common pet tapeworm called Didylidium caninum which has been found in humans. The ground squirrel flea can transmit plague bacteria, and the Oriental rat flea can transmit the plague and typhus. The rat flea is the most common cause of plague bacteria in the world. While the bubonic plague is still rare, it can be especially lethal to vulnerable populations.

Flea Prevention Methods

The most common means for a flea getting inside are through pets or other pests, so keeping them out of your home means paying special attention to these areas. For pet-related flea control, follow these methods:

  • Don’t walk your pet through tall grass or weeds where fleas may hide.

  • After walks, inspect them thoroughly for pest hitchhikers, or better yet, give them an immediate bath.

  • Treat your pets regularly with safe flea control and keep their fur trimmed and combed.

  • Wash and inspect pet beds and toys regularly.

  • Vacuum often, especially in areas where your pet hangs out more.

  • Launder sheets and blankets often.

  • Clean outdoor pet shelters regularly, vacuuming and laundering any bedding. Seal off likely hiding places for pets or other pests where fleas may be waiting to hop on.

If not through your pet, fleas may get inside through other pests. If you have a rodent problem, this is the next most likely means of transmission. Keep flea-carrying pests away with these methods:

  • Seal cracks and holes around the foundation or outside of your home with silicone-based caulk or steel wool.

  • Repair any pipes or landscaping issues that may cause standing or available water for the wildlife.

  • Don’t leave easy hiding places like woodpiles or tires near the home.

  • Keep your lawn trimmed, tree limps kept away from the house, and don’t plant shrubs near the home.

  • Seal and store outdoor trash away from the home, and keep indoor trash sealed and regularly taken out.

  • Immediately clean up crumbs and spills indoors and out.

  • Store food in glass or metal containers, and don’t leave pet food sitting out.

Contact Prosite Pest Control For More Assistance

Because these pests are more than a nuisance, if you fear an infestation, call Prosite Pest Control for our residential pest control service. These tiny pests can spread out around your home in a heartbeat, not only affecting your pets but biting the members of your household and putting them at risk for serious illnesses. At Prosite Pest Control, we will initiate a thorough inspection and treatment that not only deals with current pest issues but prevents future problems by eliminating risk factors. Contact us today for effective pest control in Yakima County.


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