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Small (1/12 - 1/16" long) dark, reddish-brown, wingless, blood-sucking insects. Hard, flattened bodies covered with short spines and long legs adapted for jumping.

Life Cycle

4 stages:

  • egg
  • larva
  • pupa
  • biting adult

Warning Signs

Pets infested with fleas will bite and scratch themselves constantly. Their coats become roughened and the skin can become infected. Watch for excessive scratching and use a flea comb on your pet regularly, checking for black specks or "flea dirt." The usual flea bite has a small red spot where the flea has bitten.

Flea-Related Problems

Besides the discomfort even one flea bite can cause people and pets, there are more serious medical concerns that may result from fleas.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) - Some pets or people may develop an allergy to flea saliva. Even one flea bite can result in significant irritation, itchiness and aggravation that lasts up to 5 days. It is characterized by small scabs and redness at the bite site, hair loss and secondary infection. The primary treatment is to remove the existing fleas and prevent future flea bites.

Tape Worms - this intestinal parasite is a common ailment associated with fleas. Though not transmitted by bites, fleas cause tape worms when a pet ingests a flea carrying the tapeworm larva while grooming itself. After ingestion, the tapeworm larva develop and move through the gastrointestinal tract. The parasite segments resemble small pieces of rice and may be discovered around the anal region of your pet.

Flea Bite Anemia - occurs in severe flea infestations or in very young pets. When a flea bites, it feeds on blood. With many fleas feeding at the same time, significant blood loss can occur, resulting in severe anemia. Blood transfusions, iron supplementation and hospitalization are frequently necessary. Flea bite anemia may even be fatal to some pets.


To effectively eliminate fleas and prevent re-infestation, you must break the flea life cycle by killing flea eggs and larvae, which make up 95% of the flea population. Spot topical treatments like Advantage, Bio-spot, Hartz Advanced Care and Zodiac Spot On kill flea eggs, larvae and pupa. They will also kill and repel adult fleas.

Any serious flea associated illness, such as FAD, Tape Worms or Flea Bite Anemia, should be treated by your veterinarian.

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