Fleas can be a problem even in the best kept homes and on the cleanest pets. Animals with fleas suffer and so it is important to be vigilant.
Individual animals react differently to having fleas. Some will simply be very itchy, which is bad enough in itself (imagine the feeling of having little creatures crawling over your body and biting you all the time!). Some dogs and cats, however, are highly allergic to flea saliva, and it’s these poor pets that suffer from flea allergic dermatitis, with severe skin irritation and hair loss. For these animals it may only take one or two fleas to cause a marked reaction, and they sometimes scratch until they bleed, and get infected sores.
Fleas can be controlled by using effective products on both your pet and your home. It is much better to prevent your pet and house from becoming infested, by regularly treating for fleas as part of your routine pet care, rather than having to deal with the build up of a serious flea problem! Your veterinary practice team is the best source for advice on preventative flea control regimes.
Dogs and cats can pick up fleas from outside the home, particularly if they go into other people’s houses and meet other animals. You could even bring fleas into the house yourself on your shoes and clothes. By far the most common flea in both dogs and cats is the cat flea.
You will see your dog or cat scratching themselves.
You may see small brown insects running in your pet’s coat.
You may see tiny black dots in your pet’s coat – this is flea “dirt” – if you place this on a damp white tissue or cotton wool ball it will dissolve into a reddish mark.
Your pet may start losing its fur, or developing sore patches
You might get bites yourself, especially on the ankles and legs.
Call your veterinary practice for advice on the best products to use if your pet has fleas. You will need to treat both the animal and the home environment to completely get rid of the problem. If your pet is flea “allergic” it may also need medication to help stop the itching or to deal with any sore patches that have developed.
Adult fleas live on your pet, but not for long – fleas die after 7-14 days, only to be replaced by ones developing in the environment. After feeding on your pet's blood the female flea lays eggs which drop on to the animal's bedding, the carpet, the sofa or even in your bed! Eggs hatch into larvae, which become pupae, then new fleas emerge and jump onto your pet, and the cycle starts all over again. A single flea can lay up to 20 eggs per day and 1,500 in one lifetime, so it is easy to see how an infestation builds up. The highest concentration of eggs, larvae and pupae are likely to be in the environment rather than on the animal itself.
Your vet will recommend an aerosol spray for your pet’s bedding, the carpets and furniture. It is particularly important to spray thoroughly if you have a flea infestation. Most good sprays will not only kill fleas, but will inhibit the development of the immature stages. Regular cleaning of bedding combined with thorough vacuuming of furniture and floors particularly around skirting boards will also help to destroy each stage of the flea's life cycle. You should throw away the dustbag from your vacuum after each use.