Fleas are tricky little blood sucking insects that cause a lot of problems if allowed to establish themselves in your home. The females lay eggs in your pet's fur, which then drop to the ground within a few hours. A single female can lay thousands of eggs. After a few days maggot-like larvae hatch from the eggs. These larvae migrate to dark places such as carpets, cracks in the floor or in pets bedding. The larvae feed on house dust for about 2 to 4 weeks before developing into adult fleas searching for a blood meal- typically from your dog or cat but occasionally they may get you first! The typical time from an egg falling to the floor to becoming a fully formed adult in a cocoon is 3-4 weeks in summer, but it can vary. Fleas can also wait as cocoons for in excess of 6 months, explaining why some people have recurring problems.
To prevent flea infestation becoming a problem for your pets we advise year-round treatment - being part of our Pet Health Plan ensures you receive year-round flea and worm treatments for your lovely pet as part of their cover, our team will also remind you when they are due for a treatment We can also deliver the treatment to your home for a small fee.
Symptoms of flea infestation
If fleas are present in large numbers on any animal, they will cause irritation and itchiness and can even cause anaemia. Some animals are allergic to substances in flea saliva and in these cases only a few bites can cause severe discomfort. Flea allergic dermatitis (FAD) is the most common skin disease of dogs and cats. In dogs, FAD will often affect the rear half of the body, with hair loss and itchiness. In cats, FAD will often cause scabs over the body (miliary dermatitis) or a symmetrical hair loss, they may excessively groom themselves or self-harm in severe cases. Fleas can also carry an immature form of tapeworm. If the flea is swallowed by the animal the tapeworm can then go on to grow inside your pet's gut. Regular flea and worm control will really help avoid these problems.
Please do bring your pet to see us if you suspect a flea allergy or if your pet has a persistent skin irritation, as they may require further treatments other than flea products.
Diagnosis of flea infestation
The easiest way to diagnose fleas is to see the flea. but they can be elusive. Your vet may use a flea comb to groom through your pets coat to look for evidence. such as flea dirt/faeces. Flea dirt appears as small dark particles, often comma shaped, in your pet's coat. If the particles are placed on damp white paper or cotton wool and rubbed they will leave a reddish brown trace - this is the dried blood in the flea droppings. Sometimes you or your vet will not see any evidence of fleas or flea dirt, as persistent grooming and licking can remove the flea dirt, but if symptoms are suspicious it is still important to treat your pet.
Treatment of flea infestation
If there is a problem with fleas then all the animals in the household and their environment should be treated to reduce the risk of re-infestation. It is really important to treat the house as well as 95% of the flea population will be in your home. Large accumulations of eggs and larvae can build up in areas where your pet spends a lot of time e.g. bedding or a favourite armchair and these areas should have particular attention paid to them with regular vacuuming and washing in addition to the use of a good quality environmental spray - used carefully following all directions and properly airing rooms afterwards. Flea control products are available at the surgery, please telephone us to check we have the correct product in stock for you.
Always seek our advice before treating your pet for fleas. Many of the readily available products could be harmful to your pet if you use the wrong ones - also they may be ineffective and a waste of money.
The latest flea treatments we use will also help prevent Ticks - ticks will appear as small, grey nodules - very firmly attached to our pets. It is very important not to pull off the tick as it may leave it mouth parts behind and cause an infection - our nurses can very quickly and safely remove the tick for you, so please call us if you find one. Pets can occasionally contract tick borne diseases so it is always a good idea to use year round flea/tick protection for your pet.