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If your pet is scratching itself more than usual or you notice red, itchy bumps on your lower legs, you could be dealing with a flea infestation. But how do you know for sure? What do fleas look like? We describe what fleas look like, where they come from, what their bites look like, and how to treat flea bites and infestations.
Fleas are small, wingless parasites with thin bodies that range from brown to reddish-brown in color. Though they don’t have wings, they’re capable of jumping long distances to get from host to host. Their bodies are covered in hair to root them to their host and allow them to easily move under a host’s fur or hair. Adult fleas are typically 2.5 millimeters long, making them difficult to notice individually. You’ll likely notice fleas on your pet first.
Cat fleas are the most common domestic flea, but dog fleas are also very prevalent in homes and on pets. Cat fleas don’t just affect cats—they affect dogs, various animals, and humans.
Most likely, fleas come from your pet having picked them up while outside. Fleas thrive in moist, shady areas, so if your pet frequently hangs out in one of these outdoor spots, there’s a good chance that’s where the fleas came from. Fleas can also come from raccoons, squirrels, rodents, and feral cats, so if you don’t have pets, one of these stray animals could be your likely source.
Now that you know the answer to, “what do fleas look like,” you may be wondering “what do flea bites look like?” On humans, flea bites look like small, red bumps surrounded by light-red halos. You’ll likely notice flea bites randomly scattered on your lower legs and feet an hour after you’ve been bitten—this is different from bed bug bites, which appear in a straight line and show up a few days to weeks after being bitten.
If you’re unsure whether you’ve been bitten by fleas, look to your dog and cat for signs of a flea infestation. On pets, flea bites appear as raised red dots (smaller than typical bug bites), but these may be difficult to locate because of your pet’s fur.
The best way to determine if your pet has flea bites is to search for evidence of fleas and look for the following flea bite symptoms:
As much as flea bites itch, do not scratch them. They can get infected easily and potentially scar your feet and legs.
Fleas breed at a rapid pace—female fleas can lay over 2,000 eggs in three months—so it’s essential to eliminate them as soon as you notice an issue.
Here are some methods to get rid of fleas at all four stages of their life cycle.
If flea eggs aren’t properly removed, multiple fleas will hatch in the coming weeks. Flea eggs look like translucent, oval dots and are about 0.4 millimeters in size. Not to be confused with brown flea dirt, which is a sign of flea fecal matter, flea eggs look like dandruff or grains of salt.
Here are some ways to get rid of flea eggs:
Once flea eggs hatch, the result is flea larvae that look like tiny, white worms with pale-colored hairs. They feed primarily on flea dirt to prepare for entering the pupal stage. Here’s how to kill flea larvae:
Flea pupae are small, sticky, water-tight, cocoons that blend in with your carpets. In this stage, flea larvae are transforming into adult fleas. Pesticides and IGRs won’t kill fleas inside the protected pupal casings, but there are other mechanical methods that will. Here’s how to effectively get rid of flea pupae:
Aside from vacuuming your floors, cleaning bedding, and washing your pet, here are specific methods that will eliminate fleas in your home:
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