How to get rid of fleas

Fleas are small, wingless insects with flattened bodies, six legs, and brown color. 

They have a small mouth part which extends to the larger oval-shaped body covered with hair. Fleas have enlarged hind legs which are adapted for jumping; they can jump as high as 30 cm, 150 times the length of their own body.

Have you caught your dog scratching behind his ears one too many times? Is your cat scratching herself more than usual? Then Yes, you are right to worry, they might have fleas. You need to identify them immediately!

Why Is It Important to Know What Fleas Look Like?

It is important to identify fleas so that you can take the most effective treatment for exterminating these life-threatening parasites!

Fleas are real-life vampires; these parasites suck the blood from their hosts to survive. Research reveals that 80% of fleas attach themselves to mammals whereas only 20% find a home in birds. Fleas have no other diet than the blood of their host, they cannot survive without it.

These insects can cause damage to blood vessels by sucking blood from them. They can cause swelling, redness, and infections in blood vessels. More than that, fleas bring disease into the house. They are a threat to you and your family.  

Fleas not only pose a threat to your pet’s health but yours! A study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases reported that flea-borne diseases are on the rise. Fleas carry pathogens from host to host, spreading dangerous diseases such as:

  • Plague
  • Murine Typhus
  • Cat Scratch Disease
  • Cat Flea Rickettsiosis
  • Myxomatosis
  • Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Having Difficulty Identifying Fleas?

A study published in the Journal of Medical and Veterinary Entomology claims that there are 2500 species of fleas. Fleas also share cosmetic similarities with other insects such as bed bugs, ticks, and Flea beetles among others.  

To the untrained eye, they all look similar. It is no wonder they are hard to identify!

If You Are In A Hurry

If you need to quickly scan the general traits of fleas, then look for the following traits:

  • Fleas are small; an adult flea range from 1-8mm. For comparison think about the size of
  • your fingernail (2mm) and a 2-carat diamond (8mm). 
  • Fleas do not have wings
  • Fleas have long hind legs which they use to jump from host to host. Fleas can jump 30-50cm, almost 150 times their body length.
  • Fleas have six legs
  • Their bodies are oval, it is pressed bilaterally (from side to side)
  • Their bodies are covered in hair
  • Their bodies have hard, glossy exteriors.

If You Need In-Depth Information

Are you one of the people who do a comprehensive research before taking the next step? If yes, then this section is extremely useful for you.
Here, we will discuss the common characteristics of fleas such as size, colour, shape, and comparison with other similar insects. These characteristics will help you identify what fleas actually look like.
Let’s dive into it!

How Big Are Fleas?

An adult flea can be 1 – 8 mm in length. The species of fleas which are common in households are usually 2-3 mm in size, they are small but visible to the naked eye. You may have seen fleas on your cat, your dog or your pet rabbit. The small dark brown insects which cling to your skin’s pet and make their life miserable. They appear as small, dark pinpoints to the naked eye.

The size of a flea depends upon its gender and species. Research shows that female fleas are larger in length than their male counterparts. On average, a male flea can be 2 – 2.5 mm in length whereas a female can be 3.5 -4 mm in length. The female’s length is increased by its distended abdomen.

Size variations also depend upon the type of the flea. The smallest species of flea are the sand flea (Tunga penetrans) and Rabbit flea (Spilopsyllus cuniculi) which are 1 mm in length.

On the other hand, species such as the Human flea (Pulex irritans), Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis), and Dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis) are slightly larger. The males of these species are 2 – 2.55 mm in length, whereas the females are 3.5-4 mm in length.

The mountain beaver flea is the largest among flea species, its female can grow to 8 mm in length.

Cat fleas and Dog fleas are the most common types of fleas in households. These species of fleas are usually 2-4 mm in size, they are small but visible to the naked eye.

You may have seen them fleas on your cat, your dog or your pet rabbit. The small dark brown insects which cling to your skin’s pet and make their life miserable.

What Is the Color of Fleas?

The color of fleas’ ranges from reddish-brown to brownish-black. Adult fleas are typically brown in color, but you will see fleas which are reddish-brown or almost black hued. Scientists believe that the difference in color can be because of the difference in gender.

Just like small differences exist in the males and females of any species, the male and female fleas can also have a slightly different color than each other.

I have seen reddish-brown, brown, and even brownish-black fleas stuck in my cat’s fur. They are all equally disgusting and hard to kill.

What do Fleas Look like after they have Fed?

The color and size of fleas’ changes after they have fed on a blood meal. Fleas who have just eaten can become twice as large as their normal size. Their color takes on a reddish tinge as their body swells with blood.

I have personally witnessed this phenomenon; the fleas who have been in my cat’s hair for more than a day are bigger and reddish-brown in color because they have been feeding on my cat’s blood for a whole day.

In comparison, the fleas who have just jumped onto my cat are smaller in size and are almost black in color. I brush and bathe my cat regularly to avoid fleas. What do you do?

What do Flea Eggs and Larvae Look Like?

Flea eggs are white and oval-shaped. They are tiny 3mm in size, but they can be seen by the human eye. Once the eggs hatch, flea larvae come out. Flea larvae are white in color with an opaque body. They are 5 mm in length and 1 mm in width.

What do the Flea Pupae Look like?

Flea pupae are the second last stage in a flea’s life cycle. At this stage, the flea pupa closely resembles an adult flea. When it comes out of the cocoon, the young flea is orange in color but quickly turns brown after feeding.

What Other Insects Look Like Fleas?

Fleas Vs. Bed Bugs

Fleas Bed Bugs

Size

Common household fleas are 2 – 4 mm in length
Bed bugs can grow to 5 mm in length

Body Type

Fleas have a sideways-flattened body

Bed bugs have a flat body

Color

Normally brown but can range from reddish-brown to brownish-black

They have a reddish-brown color

Shape

Oval but sideways pressed

Oval but flat

Walking Pattern

Fleas jump, they can jump up to 30cm high

Bed Bugs only crawl

Apart from the appearance of fleas and bed bugs, you can tell them apart by their habitat. Fleas breed in damp and moist places, they are attracted to mammals and choose to attach themselves to furry animals like dogs, cats, rats, rabbits, and chicken, etc. On the other hand, Bed bugs live in wall cracks near the bed, inside the frame of their bed, and inside your mattress. 

Fleas Vs. Ticks

Fleas Ticks

Legs

Six Legs
Eight Legs

Size

Common household fleas are 2-4 mm in length

Ticks are larger than fleas, they can grow up to 10 mm

Body Type

Fleas have a sideways-flattened body

Ticks have a round, tear drop shaped body

Color

Normally brown but can range from reddish-brown to brownish-black

Different species of ticks have different colors. They can be green, white, orange, red, brown, and black.

Shape

Oval but sideways pressed

Oval but rounded

Walking Pattern

Fleas jump, they can jump up to 30 cm high

Ticks crawl

What Have We Learnt?

Apart from the appearance of fleas and bed bugs, you can tell them apart by their habitat.
Fleas breed in damp and moist places, they are attracted to mammals and choose to attach themselves to furry animals like dogs, cats, rats, rabbits, and chicken, etc.
 On the other hand, Bed bugs live in wall cracks near the bed, inside the frame of their bed, and inside your mattress.
 

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