The arrival of even slightly warmer weather means that cat fleas and dog fleas are becoming much more active. Professor Dick White explains the problems fleas can cause you and your pet.
Where do fleas live?
Adult fleas love to live in the coat of your pet but they can also exist in the environment for many months or even years.
What do fleas feed on?
The fleas on your pet are interested in finding only one thing – blood! They access this by sticking their mouth parts through the skin of the dog or cat and sucking. Once they have fed they can live for up to two years before the next meal.
What do fleas do when they have fed?
After the flea has had lunch it begins to lay eggs which it attaches to the hairs of your pet. The eggs hatch and can become adult fleas within 2 – 3 weeks if the temperature and humidity are ideal; ideally, this is 70F and 70% humidity). Remember! Lots of these eggs drop off your pet into their bedding or your carpets – if your pet has fleas so does your house!
What does this mean for my pet?
Fleas are mostly a nuisance rather than a danger to your pet. The flea bites can cause your pet’s skin to itch and be irritated; dogs will scratch and bite their skin in the region of the tail or neck sometimes causing severe moist inflammation; cats are less likely to show obvious irritation.
It is rare but some pets can lose so much blood that they become anaemic. Occasionally, your pet may have a severe allergic skin reaction to the flea’s saliva known as flea bite allergy.Fleas can also be responsible for your pet getting other parasites; most important amongst these are tapeworms which can be carried in immature fleas.
Can fleas bite me?
Yes – they prefer to bite your pet but they are not that fussy! Flea bites often cause small red rashes around the knees, elbows, ankles or armpit; occasionally, you may find that you have bites around your chest or back.
What can I do to get rid of my pet’s fleas?
You need to deal with fleas both on your pet and in the home – remember that there will be lots of eggs in the pet’s bedding, your carpets and soft furnishings. Vacuuming is very effective in removing a large proportion of these but also combine with a reputable insecticidal spray. For your pet there are now a range of very effective products which can be applied to your pet’s skin to kill fleas; don’t forget that bathing can also help to remove them from the coat.