Fleas are the most common parasite in pets, and unless pets are given flea prevention treatment, almost all of them will be affected at some stage in their life. Fleas can be a problem in the cleanest home and for the healthiest pets. They can be picked up by meeting other animals with fleas or from homes that contain flea larvae and eggs.
Fleas are unlikely to cause serious harm, but they are a nuisance and very unpleasant, both for pets and their owners.
What harm can fleas do?
Dogs and cats are both hosts to fleas
- Fleas suck their host’s blood and cause irritation and discomfort
- Adult fleas will happily bite humans too though they tend to prefer our pets
- In some cases your pet may be 'allergic' to flea bites and even a very low number of fleas can cause a long standing and very uncomfortable problem with hair loss and severe itchiness
- Young or frail pets can become very weak or even die in some cases if infected by fleas
- Fleas can also spread tapeworms
How do you prevent fleas?
Regular flea prevention treatment is recommended as it is easier to prevent fleas than it is to get rid of an infestation.
Fleas are at their worst in the summer and autumn, although in centrally heated houses they can be a problem all year round so we recommend that pets are treated 12 months of the year.
Your vet can advise on the most appropriate product for your pets.
Why is it so difficult to get rid of fleas?
95% of fleas live in the environment in the egg and larval stages i.e. the home, not on the pet!
Only the adult fleas live on the cat or dog. The early stages of egg and larvae live free in the environment. For every flea that you see running through your pet's fur, there may be hundreds of young fleas waiting to jump aboard a passing pet - or if you are unlucky - onto you.
How to treat flea infestation?
When a flea problem is found in your pet we advise treating both the pet and the home
Treating the pet:
A spot-on treatment is usually prescribed to kill the fleas, larvae and eggs that are living on your pet. Where spot-ons are not appropriate we can prescribe a tablet form treatment. Regular treatment is then recommended throughout the year to prevent fleas and other parasites affecting your pet.
Treating the home:
- Environmental flea sprays will kill fleas, eggs and larvae in the carpets.
- Washing your pet's bedding in hot water will destroy the young fleas, but not the eggs, so you will need to continue to wash the bedding regularly to ensure that it remains free of fleas
- Vacuum regularly, especially in the areas around where your pet sleeps
Fleas can be a real menace in centrally heated homes so it’s important to continue to treat your pet and your home all year round, even if you do not see fleas.
For advice on the best preventative treatments for your pets speak with one of our vets or veterinary nurses.