If your pet is scratching its head or neck, you might have found evidence of a flea infestation. It is important to know what a flea looks like and how it gets on your pets so you can catch the problem before it gets out of control. There are over 2,000 species of fleas in the world, but the most common one found on domestic animals is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis).

Adult fleas are about 1/16-1/8 inches long and black or dark reddish-brown. They have flat bodies that allow them to move easily between the hair or feathers of their animal hosts. They have piercing mouth parts that are designed to suck blood and flexible spines that lock into animal fur.

When a flea sees its host, it jumps on. Then it uses its powerful back legs to stay on the host at all times. This allows the flea to feed, mate and lay eggs. Fleas are very efficient at laying and can produce up to 100 eggs in a week. The female fleas lay eggs in her abdomen, which is the rear-most part of the insect.

Fleas have strong hind legs that enable them to hop and run quickly. They also have powerful front legs that are designed for grabbing and holding onto their host’s fur or feathers. When the insect is full of blood, it becomes engorged and has a darker color. Fleas can pierce the skin of their animal hosts and extract up to 15 times their body weight in blood. This makes them very effective bloodsuckers.

While it’s possible for other insects to bite people and leave swollen, itchy spots on the skin, it is most likely that fleas are responsible for these symptoms. The swollen and itchy bites caused by fleas are small, with a central hole and a red halo around them. In contrast, mosquito and bed bug bites are larger, more swollen and appear all over the body.

Flea bites are usually concentrated on the shin and ankles but can be found on other areas of the body. If you suspect you have a flea infestation, you can test to see if the dark specks on your pet’s fur are actually flea dirt by moistening a paper towel and seeing if it turns red or maroon. Flea dirt is comprised of undigested or partially digested blood.

Another sign of a flea infestation is if your pet has pale gums. This is because fleas are so good at sucking blood that your pet could become anemic.

A good way to look for signs of a flea infestation is to conduct a regular, thorough inspection of your pet’s what does a flea look like fur and bedding. Look all over the animal’s body, especially under the tail, between the legs and behind the ears. You should also inspect kennels and upholstered furniture. If you can’t spot the pests with your hand, use a fine-toothed comb to search for fleas and flea dirt.