Spotting the signs of a home flea infestation

We love our pets – their quirky characteristics, humorous habits and the love they give us back. But we don’t love the unwanted visitors they sometimes unknowingly bring into our homes. Here’s how to find out if you have fleas in your home so you can nip an infestation in the bud.

Itchy red spots on us

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If there’s a home infestation, fleas will sense us humans as a potential host and hatch out from carpets, cracks in the flooring and furnishings (find out below how they get there) to try us out for a feed before realising they’ve nipped the wrong ‘host’. Fleas don’t live on humans, but will give us a good bite to check us out first. These bites are recognisable as itchy red spots, particularly around the ankles in the case of a home infestation.

Fleas eggs close up Fleas eggs close up

Tiny white things on the floor or pet bedding

Flea eggs and larvae are pretty small and so are hard to spot. If there’s a home infestation, we might just see things that look like grains of sand or salt, or little white caterpillars on the floor or other places our pets go, such as their bed or a sofa. 

The things that look like little grains of sand will be flea eggs. They’re white, oval and only about half a millimetre long, so it’s easy to mistake them for a bit of dry skin or something less harmful than a flea egg.

The white caterpillar-looking things will be flea larvae. Flea eggs hatch into flea larvae that burrow into carpets, furnishings and nooks and crannies – such as skirting boards and between floorboards – so you might not even see them at all. They’re about 2-5 mm long.

Scratching pets

If pets are scratching, overgrooming or have bits of flea dirt on them (this looks like normal dirt but goes reddish brown when on damp paper) these are signs they have an infestation, and a pet infestation inevitably leads to a home infestation. You can find out more about these signs in our how to spot fleas on your pet quick guide.

Dog scratching due to fleas
Dog scratching due to fleas

What a home infestation really means

To understand how these signs of a home infestation have come about and how to solve the problem, we need to know a bit about how the flea life cycle works. There are two key points:

1. Each female flea on a pet can lay up to 50 eggs a day. These fall off the pet around the home.

2. The fleas we see on our pets are just 5% of the total flea population in an infestation. That’s because 95% are in the pet’s environment (our homes!) as other flea life stages.

The flea life cycle

Adult fleas jump on our pets and feed and breed while on them. 

The flea eggs that adult fleas lay fall off our pets wherever they go, and develop into flea larvae.

Flea larvae burrow into carpets, furnishings and cracks, away from the light, and spin cocoons to become flea pupae.

Flea pupae contain developing, immature fleas. When they’re fully grown and detect warmth, vibrations and carbon dioxide from an animal (or from us),  these new fleas hatch out and the life cycle starts all over again.

How to solve a home infestation

Because of the way the flea life cycle works, there are a few things to do to get on top of an infestation. We’ve got all the advice you need in our five-step guide covering how to get rid of fleas in the house.

If you’ve not seen signs of an infestation yet, it’s worth bearing in mind that fleas can be hard to spot until an infestation becomes quite severe. The easiest way to avoid the problem is to flea-treat pets regularly. Take a look at our three-step guide to flea prevention for cats and dogs.

Flea infestations can seem daunting, but with the right actions and some patience, we’ll start to win against the fleas. And then we’ll get our homes (and pets) back to how we want them – minus these irritating insects.

Get answers from the experts

Got a question about fleas, ticks or worms? We can help! Take a look at our FAQs or send us a message.

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