The recent hot and humid weather has created the ideal breeding conditions for billions of fleas that are hitching a ride on our pets and invading our homes. Find out how you can fight back. WARNING: Just reading this blog could make you itchy...
Posted: 06 July 2018
Fleas are pesky pests with a cunning plan. They’ll jump aboard any passing furry animal – or human – to gain entry to your home. Once in, they’ll make the most of every opportunity to become a full-blown colony, nesting in your soft furnishings, carpets and bedding, with the females busily laying up to 50 eggs a day. Safely hidden away in cosy cracks and crevices, flea eggs can lay dormant for up to a year.
In fact, these blood-sucking parasites only spend a limited amount of time aboard an animal, so if you discover that your pet has fleas, it’s highly likely that your home does too.
Not only can fleas make your pet uncomfortable, sore and itchy, they also pose a serious health risk. Flea infestations can cause anaemia, due to the amount of blood an animal can lose, which in the worst cases can be fatal – especially in young or frail pets.
What’s more, flea larvae can become infected with tapeworm eggs. If your pet eats an infected flea when grooming, they can then become a host to this loathsome internal parasite. So, if your pet has fleas you should make sure they are treated for worms too. Fleas can also pass on other nasties, such as myxomatosis, which is a serious disease in rabbits.
GRIM FACTS ABOUT FLEAS
Even the cleanest pet and most spotless home can have a flea problem. Signs to look out for include:
When it comes to fleas, prevention is always better than cure, which is why it’s essential to keep your pets up-to-date with their parasite prevention medication. However, if you spot the signs of a flea infestation, seek treatment as soon as possible. Although there are over-the-counter solutions, from spot-on treatments to tablets, powders and shampoos, it’s best to seek professional advice from your vet.
"Dog flea treatments contain permethrin, an insecticide that is safe to use in small doses on canines but is fatal to felines. A cat can die simply by coming in contact with a dog that’s been treated with permethrin"
Burgess in-house vet Dr Suzanne Moyes says: “If you’ve identified fleas on one of your pets, all the animals in your home will need treatment – but only with medication that is suitable for their species. This is absolutely vital. Products that are safe for one type of animal may not be suitable for another.
"For example, dog flea treatments contain permethrin, an insecticide that is safe to use in small doses on canines but is fatal to felines. If you have a multiple pet family, your vet can advise of the best treatment – a cat can die simply by coming in contact with a dog that’s been treated with permethrin.
"Likewise, if your pet is very young or old, or has any underlying health issues, your vet can suggest the best approach, recommend the right dose according to age and weight and show you the correct way to apply medication."
As fleas are a common pest, flea control needs to be carried out regularly – a single application of any product is not sufficient.
Because fleas can survive without a host for many months, you’ll also need to take care of these pests in your home. Clean bedding regularly – including pet bedding – and wash at 60 degrees C. Vacuum furniture, floors and skirting boards thoroughly to help destroy fleas at each stage of their life cycle – throw away the dust bag after each use to prevent any flea eggs and larvae from developing. Ideally, this needs to be done daily for three months. You could follow up with a pet safe insecticide spray such as EcoSMART, but avoid general insecticides as these can be highly toxic to pet animals.
Small pet homes will also need some anti-flea treatment with a pet-safe cleaning product specifically designed for the purpose – always make sure you follow the instructions carefully.
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Sources: rspca.org.uk, bluecross.org.uk, petmd.com