No-one likes the idea of sharing their home with fleas, but as well as the occasional bite to owners, fleas can be an serious cause of distress and suffering for pets.
“Fleas need warmth to thrive,” explains Sean Wensley, PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon. “As most homes now have central heating we are providing the perfect environment for them, so fleas are now a year-round problem. They reproduce rapidly, so regular preventive treatment with safe and effective products is vital.”
To help pet owners, Sean has put together some top tips on dealing with fleas:
- Choose the right product – many different products are available, but some over-the-counter treatments are not as effective as others, or as those prescribed by a vet. Ask your vet for advice, as they can recommend the most suitable treatment for your pet.
- Treat regularly – this is important as some products will only kill adult fleas, so any remaining eggs and larvae will remain and continue to grow. Regular treatment breaks the life-cycle.
- Never use a treatment intended for one species on another – for example, using a dog treatment on a cat is a common cause of poisoning, which can be fatal. Equally, exceeding the recommended dosage can make pets ill, so always follow the instructions.
- Treat for worms too – fleas are actually vital in the life-cycle of some tape worms, so it’s important to treat your pets regularly for both types of parasite.
- Treat all your pets – fleas can jump straight from one species to another, so it’s important to treat all the pets in your house at once.
- Treat your home as well – flea eggs and larvae can live in carpets, beds and blankets so it’s important to treat your home to prevent re-infestation. Wash your pet’s bedding regularly, and vacuum areas where your pet spends time.
Regular grooming helps to keep your pet’s coat in tip top condition, and it also gives you a chance to keep an eye out for any signs of skin problems, including those caused by fleas. Signs of fleas living on your pet include scratching, hair loss and red, inflamed skin.
If your pet develops any of these signs, make an appointment with your vet. You may not have seen a flea, but that does not mean that none are present; sometimes they are difficult to detect. In addition, some pets are allergic to flea saliva, so even the bite from a single flea can cause serious discomfort.
It is also important for your vet to rule out other possible causes, such as a bacterial infection or allergy. If fleas are diagnosed, your vet will advise you on treatment, including any other pets, and your home.