Fleas are a common problem in UK homes, especially those with pets. You may discover a problem with fleas even if you do not have pets, if previous owners of your property kept cats or dogs. Fleas can also be carried on other (especially hairy) animals like rabbits, foxes, squirrels, rats, mice and livestock such as pigs.
As parasites, the greatest concern about the presence of fleas in your home or business comes from their bites. Although these are not painful, they can result in an uncomfortable itch or reactive rash. Your pets could also develop allergies to the flea saliva.
How to identify signs of fleas
Your cat or dog looks to be in some discomfort and is constantly scratching or biting their fur. Is it a skin infection or could it be fleas feeding? But what do fleas look like? Before you take your pet to the vet there are a couple of ways to check if you have fleas in the home.
Human fleas are now uncommon in the UK. They find it hard to compete against the vacuum cleaner and insecticides.
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.
Looking for Flea Eggs
Sometimes it’s easy to think you’ve got rid of the fleas in your home when you haven’t. This is because flea eggs are very difficult to spot. Fleas will lay their eggs on your pet’s body. But they won’t stay there.
Eggs easily fall off and can become hidden in carpets, rugs, bedding or gaps between floorboards. Flea eggs are tiny (only about 0.5mm long), oval and white. This makes them almost impossible to see against rough surfaces and materials.
Fleas can pull 160,000 times their own weight, which is the same as you pulling 2,679 double-decker buses.
A flea can jump 30,000 times without stopping
Fleas don’t have ears and are virtually blind.
Flea larvae don’t like the light so they move away from it, deep into carpets, cracks in flooring or any nook or cranny.
When a flea jumps, it accelerates 50 times faster than a space shuttle.
Fleas can lay up to 1,500 eggs in their lifetime.