Fleas are a year-round problem. The great news is that there are some really effective treatments available that will kill fleas very quickly.
How will I know my pet has fleas?
· Pets with fleas may scratch, bite and lick themselves.
· You may also see fleas moving quickly through the coat - they are brown, a few millimetres long and usually on the move.
· You may notice flea dirt - these are black specks in the coat which are actually dried blood. The way to tell the difference between flea dirts and grit/dirt, is to dab the specks with a piece of damp cotton wool. Flea dirt will dissolve leaving a red/brown stain on the cotton wool.
It can sometimes be hard to find any evidence of fleas, especially in itchy cats which are grooming excessively.
How did my animal get fleas?
Fleas are wingless insects that jump onto your pet from infested places or, less commonly, other animals. Around 10% of dogs and 20% of cats will have fleas at any one time, making fleas a very common problem. Cat fleas are the most common type, and can be found on cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets and humans. Cat fleas are commonly found on dogs.
Does it matter if my pet has fleas?
Yes! Flea bites are itchy, so you may notice your dog scratching. Although cats may also scratch, more commonly, they show they are itchy by grooming themselves excessively - this can lead to areas of fur loss.
A large number of fleas can lead to a build up of flea dirt within the coat. Animals can even become anaemic as a result of fleas sucking large amounts of blood.
Some animals have flea allergies. These animals are allergic to flea bites (the saliva of the flea to be precise) - so even a few bites can lead to very itchy skin, red areas, hair loss, excessive grooming or persistent scratching.
Fleas can also transmit diseases such as the tapeworm Dipylidium caninum. Myxomatosis in rabbits is spread by fleas from wild rabbits and hares.
The other important thing to consider is that fleas also bite us!
Is it true that fleas live in the house not just on my pet?
Yes! Only about 5% of fleas are on your pet - the other 95% are in the environment, such as around the house. Let's take a look at the flea lifecycle to explain why this is:
· Adult female fleas living on our pets lay eggs. Each female can lay 50 eggs daily, which roll off into the environment - such as the animal's bedding, carpets, flooring etc.
· Within a few days, a larva hatches out, and move into dark areas such as deep within a carpet, when they grow.
· After a while, this develop into a pupa - it can stay in this state for many months but ultimately will hatch into an adult flea.
· The newly-emerged adult senses heat, movement and carbon dioxide, indicating a host is near - it jumps onto the host, feeds (sucks blood), mates and lays eggs.
· In ideal conditions, this can be completed in just 12 days.
So - flea control needs to include something to kill off the fleas developing in the house AS WELL as the ones on the animal, and/or something that works for weeks at a time, so any new fleas that land on your pet are killed off.
Flea eggs and larvae are susceptible to insecticides, but pupae aren't easy to kill - they are resistant to freezing, drying and insecticides. They can lie dormant for months if a host isn't around.
What is the best way to get rid of fleas on my dog/cat?
Fleas can be hard to get rid of completely - it can take 3 months of rigorous flea treatment to control an infestation. Reasons for this include;
· Failing to treat all animals in the household
· Not treating cars
· Exposure of your pet to fleas in houses visited
· Not appreciating that shampooing or swimming will decrease the efficacy of a product.
Fortunately there are some extremely good, effective products around, representing excellent value for money.
There is a flea tablet for dogs that lasts 3 months - which is brilliant as it breaks the flea life cycle in one easy treatment. It also kills ticks, and is the product we recommend you to use.
These products consist of a small volume of liquid in a vial, the liquid should be applied to the skin on the back of the neck, avoiding the fur.
Regulations prevent us from naming trade names of products we recommend, but we can name the active ingredient - please contact the surgery for more help.
A new spot-on flea product for cats was launched in the UK in August 2016 which lasts for an amazing THREE MONTHS!! Please ask us for more details. The same product is also available for dogs as well.
Please note, not all spot-ons are the same - ones on sale in pet shops and supermarkets may contain different active ingredients to those we recommend.
The cat below has been treated with a very effective flea product - within hours, dead fleas are falling off the cat (you can see them on the photo, they've fallen onto the cat's paws!).
What about treating the house?
If you treat your pet regularly with a good product that effectively kills fleas, plus stops fleas developing in the environment, you probably don't need to treat the environment.
If you are being bitten, or your animal has a large number of fleas, it is advisable to treat the house as well. Household sprays vary greatly between products. The better house sprays contain 'IDIs' which prevent insect development, plus an insecticide.
Practice Recommendations for Spraying the House:
- Use a household spray, preferably one containing 3 active ingredients, ensuring rapid kill of adult fleas, and year-long control by killing eggs and larvae.
- Ventilate the rooms for at least an hour before allowing pets back in.
- Don't forget to treat all the places your pet goes, including the car if applicable, plus caravans, holiday homes etc.
- Vacuum before and 24 hours after spraying.
Are there any products you don't recommend?
Each year, we see many animals with fleas. Some may have been treated with 'over-the-counter' products which just haven't worked. Examples include:
· Flea powder - which is smelly, difficult to apply, unlikely to kill sufficient fleas to get rid of the problem.
· Flea collars - smelly plus not effective - it's not uncommon for us to see pets coming in wearing flea collars with fleas crawling around the collar!
· Flea shampoo - will probably kill off the fleas your pet has at the time of bathing. You've worked hard, done a good job, then let your pet go back to its infested bedding. Within a few minutes, some more fleas have probably replaced the ones you've worked so hard to kill off. So, you've guessed it - unlikely to work.
· Flea combing - however often you comb your pet, you'll never get rid of fleas.
· Flea spray - usually contains permethrin, considered a weak insecticide and probably ineffective with large flea burdens. These must not be used on cats.
Can I treat my rabbit or ferret for fleas?
Yes, contact the practice for information and recommended products.