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Lord Of The Fleas

By Dr Katrina Warren on November 23, 2012 in Other

Warm, wet weather is perfect for fleas and Sydney has been experiencing plenty of sunshine and rain lately. It’s time for pet owners to do their spring cleaning and get started on their flea prevention strategies as soon as possible to avoid an infestation this summer. If left uncontrolled, a breeding pair of fleas can produce more than 20,000 fleas in just three months!

Flea bites are extremely irritating for pets and can cause an aggravating skin condition called flea allergy dermatitis. Since fleas use a wide range of hosts, diseases can be transferred from one host to another, including tapeworm infection. Both pets and humans can contract this type of tapeworm after accidental ingestion of an infected flea.

How do I tell if my pet has fleas?

• Your pet may frantically scratch or bite its coat. Pets with fleas often groom and lick themselves constantly.

• Areas of hair loss – you may see bald patches, particularly around the base of the tail.

• Look for ‘flea dirt’ in your pet’s coat – these are tiny dark brown specks that look like dirt. Flea dirt is the dried faeces of fleas and can be found by brushing your cat’s coat over some white paper towel, then placing a drop of water on the brown specks. If they turn red, it is digested blood found in flea droppings.

• Flea sightings – fleas are small black/brown insects that are often found around the neck, hind legs and the base of the tail. If you see just one flea, there will normally be plenty of others. If you don’t see any live fleas on your cat, don’t assume there are no fleas as they can hide in thick dark areas of your pet’s coat.

How does the flea lifecycle work?

It is important to understand that fleas go through four stages during their lifecycle – eggs, larva, pupa and adult. The adults are found on your pet but the other stages are found in the environment – e.g. carpets, bedding, furniture and floorboards.

Female fleas lay a large number of eggs; most of these fall off into the environment. These eggs develop into small larvae, which hang out and feed in dark areas in the pet’s environment. They become pupae, encased in a strong cocoon, and can remain dormant for many months. When pupae have the right combination of warmth and vibrations (caused by an animal’s movements), the adult fleas emerge and the lifecycle begins again.

What is the best way to treat fleas?

There are a wide variety of flea products on the market and your vet can advise the best strategy for your individual situation. Topical ‘spot on’ products such as Revolution, applied just once a month, are simple to use and treat, control and prevent flea infestations.

You must also be diligent with cleaning your pet’s environment, which includes thoroughly vacuuming floorboards, carpets and couches. Make sure you empty the vacuum bag and discard of the contents. Wash bedding and blankets in hot water and if you treat the yard or exterior, make sure the product you use is non-toxic to pets.