Cat fleas are very small and compressed insects that live on dogs, cats, and other animals. They do not fly, but have long legs and can jump a long distance. Flea larvae live at the base of household carpeting or in the openings in wood floors. Adult fleas suck blood from the host several times a day. Larvae feed on organic debris.
Household pets can get fleas by contact with infested dogs and cats. Rats, skunks, and opossums also carry cat fleas and can pass them to household pets. Contrary to common belief, fleas do not live successfully outdoors (backyards). It is generally not possible for people to carry fleas from house to house.
When dogs and cats become seriously infested they often change their sleeping or resting site to another. This is done to avoid the infested carpet, flooring, or bedding where fleas are developing. Infested dogs and cats scratch frequently and can irritate their skin.
The most common ticks found in and around houses are the American dog tick (wood tick), Brown dog tick, Lone star tick, and the Deer tick. They can be identified by their color, white markings, and size. They all bite humans, and occasionally dogs and cats.
American dog ticks have irregular white markings on their back, Brown dog ticks are uniformly brown with no markings, the Lonestar tick female has a white spot in the middle of her back and the males have small white markings; the Deer tick is small and dark brown, and without markings.
The American dog tick and the Lone star tick are common in backyards and natural areas close to suburban communities. This tick feeds on dogs, cats, and people. They may drop off the
host inside homes, but do not reproduce indoors. The Brown dog tick is less common, but it also feeds on dogs and people. This tick species can reproduce indoors. Deer ticks are common in wooded areas, but rarely feed on household pets. They attack deer and small animals, and people.
The immature stages and adult ticks can be found on the head and neck region of pets, and sometimes at the base of the tail. Ticks on people will usually bite the legs or torso, but can also climb to the neck region.
Treat the pet home and yard. The first step in eliminating fleas from a house is to use an insecticide to kill adult fleas as well as a product containing nylar to prevent eggs from hatching into adult biting fleas, Treat pets using a shampoo containing pyrethrum. Treat the yard with a hose end sprayer labeled to kill fleas. Identify and treat the areas where the household dog or cat regularly sleeps or rests. This is where flea larvae are concentrated and where insecticide application will be most effective.
Fleas on pets can be prevented by using on-animal products that kill the adults and affect the eggs that are laid. Exposure to feral dogs and cats should be avoided, and avoid the infested pets living in other houses.
Infestations of Brown dog ticks indoors can be treated with liquid insecticide applied to the areas where the pets sleep or rest. Baseboards and carpeting in these areas should be treated. The backyard (ground and tall grass along edges) can be treated in spring if an abundance of tick is expected.
An effective prevention strategy for ticks is applying insect repellent to shoes, boots, pants cuffs, and ankles before walking in tick infested areas. Flea and tick collars for pets can be effective, but have to be renewed regularly.