What Are Fleas?
Fleas are small wingless insects with the ability to jump large distances. They feed on the blood of most household furred pets (please refer to ferret and rabbit sections for specific advice) and will even make a meal of us if given the opportunity. Common species of fleas include the cat and dog flea which are both known to affect multiple species despite their specific naming.
Where can fleas be found?
Fleas live and breed within the coats of your pets and spend most of their lives and breeding in the environment (your homes).
The lifecycle (in an eggshell!) is as follows:
1) Female fleas lay eggs (upto 500 eggs) on their hosts which can easily fall off and spread in the environment of your pet. As your pet goes about their day eggs and fleas may end up hidden within carpet fibres, bedding, cracks in the floor and soft furnishings. Seeing one flea in the home may mean over twice as may fleas persist in the environment in egg form! Eggs are very small and white and therefore often difficult to spot.
2) Within 12 days the eggs hatch into larvae (like caterpillars) and feed on organic debris in your home. They may be difficult to find as tend to burrow deep away from light.
3) In 1-3 weeks larvae will create a cocoon in which they begin to change into adult fleas. They can now be referred to as pupae and will soon become adult fleas ready to infect our pets and continue breeding!
How can fleas affect my pet/how do I know that my pet has fleas?
Signs can include the following:
- Live fleas/flea dirt/eggs – it may be possible to see live fleas, eggs and the appearance of flea dirt (a mixture of flea excrement and dried blood) in your pet’s coat.
- Itching/scratching/hair-loss/redness of the skin – having flea can be an itchy ordeal! Severe skin signs may be evident if your pet is additionally allergic to fleas (quite common).
- Tapeworms – finding a tapeworm in the excrement or at your pet’s bottom may be an indication that fleas are also present as these commonly occur together.
- Anaemia – young puppies and kittens may develop anaemia (an unhealthy reduction in red blood cells) as a consequence of fleas feeding on their blood. Signs of this may include lethargy, reduction of appetite and pale appearance of the gums.
These are a few of the many health problems that fleas can cause your pet.
How can I protect my pets/home and family from fleas?
Prevention is the best policy!
It is important to keep your dogs and cats regularly protected against fleas. Flea pupae can remain dormant in the environment for up to 21 months and although fleas appear more active in the summer, central heating in the winter months can ensure pets are at risk all year round!
Speak to one of our vets about which flea prevention/treatment is recommended for your pet since one treatment does not suit all.
What if my pet has fleas already?
DO NOT PANIC. It can take some time to fully clear an infestation due to potential environmental persistence. It is highly important that you take an approach that targets all potential areas that the flea could infest.
1) Use a prescription flea product as advised by your vet to treat your cat/dog and potentially any other furry pets in your home.
2) Thoroughly treat your home. This may include the use of flea killing sprays, deep cleaning the home with hoovering/carpet cleaning/placing soft furnishing and bedding through a 60°C wash.
3) Continue flea prevention regularly to ensure that fleas cannot get a foothold in the future.
When should flea prevention be started?
Flea prevention/treatment can start from as early as 6-8 weeks of age for puppies and kittens but may be required earlier in some instances. It is important to speak to one of our vets as to which products are suitable to use from a young age.
Feel free to contact us with any queries or to book a consultation: 01983 212999