There are 16 different families of fleas worldwide, consisting of about 2380 species. In Australia 9 of these families are represented with just 90 different species. About half of the endemic species that occur in Australia are found in the iopsyllidae family. The Pulicidae family contains many of the introduced fleas such as the cat, dog and human flea, as well as some native species
Fleas feed on a wide variety of warm-blooded vertebrates including humans, dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels, ferrets, rats, mice and birds. Fleas normally specialise in one host species or group of species, but can often feed but not reproduce on other species.
In many species, fleas are principally a nuisance to their hosts, causing an itching sensation which in turn causes the host to try to remove the pest by biting, pecking or scratching. Fleas are not simply a source of annoyance, however. Flea bites cause a slightly raised, swollen itching spot to form; this has a single puncture point at the centre, like a mosquito bite. Besides this, the eczematous itchy skin disease flea allergy dermatitis is common in many host species, including dogs and cats. The bites often appear in clusters or lines of two bites, and can remain itchy and inflamed for up to several weeks afterwards. Fleas can lead to hair loss as a result of frequent scratching and biting by the animal, and can cause anemia in extreme cases.
Can you see fleas crawling on your pet’s coat? They are normally reddy-brown and about 2mm long.
Check the hind-quarters of your dog or the head and neck of your cat. These are the areas that are targeted and where you might see signs of flea activity.
Carefully look at your pet’s skin for fine black droppings. This is ‘flea dirt’ or adult flea faeces and looks like ground black pepper. A good way to spot it is to use a flea comb over a sheet of white paper, which makes it easier to see the small black specks. Another sign of a problem is flea dirt on pet bedding, carpets or rugs.
While a wide range of do it yourself products are available for fleas, many times effective control requires a professional pest control service to gain control and prevent recurrence. A quick response at the very first signs of an infestation is often essential to control fleas in your home.
To effectively get rid of fleas and flea eggs, one should treat not only dogs, but also the household and exterior regions to eliminate eggs from bedding, grass, floor, furniture and other areas.
Treatment should be given as soon as signs of fleas appear, and repeated regularly. Delays in treating the infestation may lead to flea-transmitted diseases.
Once-a-month topical products are the most commonly used products to kill parasite infestations. They are normally applied on the back of the pet, and their advantage is they also provide protection from further infestations. Sprays are available as aerosols and pump bottles, and they are meant to be applied on all parts of the pet. Dips and rinses are also available, but they are not as common as the other such products because they are the most dangerous for the health of the pet. Also, different treatments are available for your pet from natural alternatives to chemical-based products that include topical medications and oral medications. Although common remedies provide natural options with natural ingredients such as lavender, pennyroyal, nenbuem, Amber and sweet mace, which are insect repellents, care should be used since "natural" does not always mean nontoxic.