Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)
Dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis)
Human flea (Pulex irritans)
Fleas are external parasites that live on your pet and survive by hematophagy on the blood of their host. Fleas can cause anemia in small animals such as rodents very quickly as an infestation can consume quite a lot of blood.
The area of skin that has been bitten by a flea can become inflamed and irritated as flea’s bite can cause itching for the animal it bites. Some animal may also be allergic to fleas and the itching can be quite severe, causing inflammation and secondary skin infections which can lead to fur-loss. As the flea bites it injects saliva this can cause some pets to become hypersensitive to flea bites. In most cases fleas are just a nuisance to their hosts, but some animals may suffer allergic reactions to flea bites.
Most fleas are host specific meaning they prefer a particular host and will normally stay with their host but may use another animal as a transient host until their own host becomes available again. Surprisingly 95% of the fleas don't actually live on your pet but stay in close proximity, particularly in the bedding, and will return to your pet to feed. If you’re pet hamster is allowed the free run of the house and you have other pets like cats or dog's hamsters can pick up the larvae, or the flea eggs from within the environment. These will later develop into fleas; and may use the hamster as a transient host until their own host becomes available.
Adult fleas only have about a week to find food once they emerge from their cocoons, but after that they can survive a very long time between meals.
Fleas may sometimes be seen running along the surface of the skin of an animal by gently stroking the fur backwards, particularly if there are a lot of them present. Adult fleas are dark and about 2-3mm long. The easiest way of determining if fleas are present is to look for flea dirt. "Flea dirt" is dark specks that resemble pepper scattered on the skin or in the hair just above it. If you see flea dirt which is actually the flea feces composed of digested blood, collect some from the pet and place on a wet paper towel. If after a few minutes the tiny specks spread out in reddish or brown colored stain then fleas may be present. Flea dirt is often the only evidence of a flea infestation. If there is flea dirt there are usually fleas around somewhere. Always check the nest when your hamster is out as sometimes the fleas or flea dirt can be seen on the bedding particularly if the bedding is a paper based material the flea dirt can be seen as dark or red spots.
If you become aware of an infestation, there could be a very heavy contamination of flea eggs. These eggs can hatch and develop into fleas within 3 days and start to lay more eggs. The flea can lay up to 200 eggs per week, so in a 9 day period there could be thousands of eggs laid. These eggs are laid by the fleas whilst they are on your pet. The flea eggs then drop off their coat and the most contaminated area will be where your pets spend most of their time, particularly in the nesting area. Thankfully only a small proportion of the flea eggs survive to the hatching stage as most will be removed by regular cleaning.
Frontline spray (prescription only) is the most effective treatment for fleas on hamsters.
And for the household, sprays such as Indorex: a spray that is active against adult fleas, larvae and eggs. Fleas are not just a hot weather phenomenon – they like the comfort of our houses and our central heating, and of course our pets to stay and breed on. Fleas are known to over winter in the larval or pupal stages.
Fleas are a natural phenomenon and can be picked up virtually anywhere there are other animals and carried around by both humans and animals.
There are several stages to the life cycle of the flea: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The length of time it takes to complete this cycle can be very short, just a matter of days. The adult female flea typically lives for several weeks on the pet and does not leave it. During this time period she will suck the animal’s blood two to three times and lay twenty to thirty eggs each day. She may lay several hundred eggs over her life span. These eggs fall off of the pet into the, bedding, carpet, and wherever else the animal spends time.
The pupae are very resilient and very difficult to kill. Pupae can survive quite a long time, waiting until environmental conditions and host availability are just right. Then they emerge from their cocoons when they detect heat, vibrations and exhaled carbon dioxide, all of which indicate that a host is nearby. The newly emerged adult flea can jump onto a nearby host immediately.