Fleas will only make their home and lay eggs on your pets (or in the grass, or in your carpets). They won’t make their permanent home on people, but they might use you as an occasional snack bar. They prefer to feed on animals like dogs and cats, but if there is a severe infestation of fleas, they might also take bites out of you and your two-legged family.
Fleas need to go through 4 life stages before they can bite animals or people. Fleas lay eggs on an animal, and these eggs fall off to land on the ground outside or on your floors inside the house. The egg hatches to a larvae (a teeny tiny worm, a baby flea). The larvae matures to a pupae (a teenage flea), and then finally to an adult. The adult flea will find the closest animal (or person) to jump on and take a blood meal. Fleas bite just like mosquitos or other insects.
Fleas will always choose to bite an animal instead of a person. But, if there are too many fleas or not enough pets around, they will also bite people. Most people will react to flea bites in the same way they would react to any other insect bite, like a mosquito bite. Reactions to flea bites tend to be worse in infants, children, and elderly people. Some people can develop an allergy to flea bites, similar to the flea bite dermatitis that we see in cats and dogs. Flea bites on people are most common in situations where there is a heavy flea infestation in a house, or if fleas are living in a bed or blankets.
Flea bites on a person. Image from Diagnostic Imaging Atlas.
While the normal flea life cycle takes about 30 days, the flea pupae (teenagers) can go into hibernation for up to 9 months. They may hibernate if temperatures get too cold, or if there is not a suitable host (animal or person) nearby. They come out of hibernation when temperatures increase, or if they are stimulated by vibrations or carbon dioxide. Once they come out of hibernation, they can develop into adult fleas in 5-10 days. You may see a large flea “hatch” in a new house that has been empty for a few months. Simply turning up the furnace, walking around, and breathing is enough to trigger a flea hatch in a house that has a hibernating infestation. Remember this can take up to 10 days, so you may not notice fleas in the house right away. When this many fleas mature at one time, there are so many that they will often bite people as well as any animals in the house.
So, no question about it, fleas are creepy little critters, and are no fun to have around. What can you do about it? Follow these tips to get rid of them.
Do you think your pet or your house has fleas? Call us or come in with your pet to get them examined. We can tell if your pet has fleas, and help you come up with some solutions to get rid of the fleas on your pet and the ones in your house.
Check out our Fleas Resource Page for even more information about fleas!