What Are Fleas?
Adult fleas are reddish-brown insects with bodies that are compressed, or flattened, from side to side. While visible to the naked eye, they are so small you could line up about eight adult fleas, end-to-end, in one inch. Because fleas are so small, they can be difficult to detect, much less eliminate from your home.
Fleas are wingless, but possess incredible jumping ability. This enables them to jump easily from ground level to “ambush” a pet.
Fleas feed on blood, and female fleas consume about 15 times their body weight each day1. Incompletely digested blood is excreted from the flea and dries to form what is commonly referred to as “flea dirt.” This serves as food for developing flea larvae and is one way veterinarians and pet owners can identify an infestation.
Learn more about the flea lifecycle.
Why worry about fleas?
Fleas can pose a serious problem for your dog’s health.
Not only can fleas make your dog miserable, but depending on his age and overall physical condition, fleas can pose a serious threat to his health.
- Fleas can cause severe discomfort for dogs, including scratching, chewing, biting and restlessness.
- Fleas are the source of flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), the most common veterinary dermatological condition2.
- Severe flea infestations can cause anemia, especially in puppies or debilitated adult dogs.
- Ingested fleas also can transmit tapeworm infection to dogs.
Fleas also raise human public health concerns3.
Your dog isn't the only household resident that can suffer from flea bites. Flea infestations in homes and areas around a home often result in humans being bitten by newly-emerging fleas. You, too, are at risk for health issues, some of which can be serious.
- Allergic reaction: Usually in the form of small, raised lesions, called papules, that can be red to purple in color. Severity will vary, depending on the severity of the allergy to the flea bite.
- Tapeworm: Tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) is generally spread through infected fleas found on both cats and dogs. Ingestion of infected fleas by children can result in tapeworm infection.
- Typhus: A group of infectious diseases usually resulting in a sustained high fever (typhus fever), headache, delirium and sometimes red rashes. Two kinds are most commonly contracted from flea bites:
- Flea Typhus. A type of typhus caused by Rickettsia felis, a bacteria first identified in cat fleas.
- Murine typhus. Another bacterial form of typhus transmitted most commonly by rodent fleas but also by fleas found on dogs.
- Plague: Rodent fleas that can be acquired by dogs and cats in some areas might be vectors for (carriers of) bubonic plague, Yersinia pestis. These fleas might leave the host to bite humans.