You know it’s the height of summertime when thoughts of de-icing the car, hunting down missing gloves and closing the curtains at 4pm seem so far removed from our lives as to have conceivably happened to someone else entirely! But one thing we shouldn’t forget about, as we relax into the longer, brighter days, is a certain six-legged creature, that thrives in the warmer weather. Fleas are one of the most common parasites affecting our four-legged friends, and there’s more to these irritating pests than meets the eye…
Dogs and cats can pick up fleas when they’re exploring outside, something they’re likely to be doing a lot of at this time of year, and once these annoying critters have hopped onto your pet, they’re in no hurry to hop off again! Not only does your pet’s furry coat give them warmth and protection, but fleas can get all the food they need from your four-legged pal, too, by biting your pet to feed on their blood. And when your intrepid explorer heads for home, their new resident fleas hitch a ride back with them, and that’s when the problems really begin…
Fleas may have no desire to leave the comfort of your pet, but their offspring have other ideas! Flea eggs, laid by female fleas, fall from your pet’s coat, and land in your home: on your carpets, floors, sofas, and anywhere else your pet spends their time. (And if your four-legged friend likes to join you in bed…then yes, there will be eggs there too we’re afraid!). Flea larvae (similar to maggots in appearance, just much smaller!) hatch out of these eggs, and feed on dead skin cells and flea dirt, until they’re ready to spin cocoons and undergo the next stage of their development. When they’re ready, new adult fleas hatch out of the cocoons and leap onto your pet, setting in motion a whole new cycle of biting and egg-laying.
A female flea can lay an impressive 2000 eggs during her time on your pet1, and since the gruesome transformation of egg to fully-fledged flea can happen in just a few weeks, it’s not hard to see how a few pesky hitchhikers can quickly turn into a full-on infestation in your home!
It goes without saying that having a brood of insects crawling across their skin and biting them throughout the day is extremely unpleasant for our pets. But fleas aren’t simply an annoyance; when you add up the effect of many fleas feeding over the course of days and weeks, it can actually result in significant blood loss. This is especially true in our smaller furballs; puppies and kittens can lose enough blood from a flea infestation to become very anaemic, which can even result in the need for a blood transfusion in severe cases!
When fleas bite, they inject saliva into your pet’s skin, which contains an anti-coagulant that helps keep the blood flowing while they feed. Some of our four-legged friends are unlucky enough to be allergic to flea saliva, and just a few flea bites can cause an insanely itchy and sore skin condition, called Flea Allergy Dermatitis. Being extra-careful about regular flea protection is especially important for these pets, as a chance encounter with even just a few of these critters can trigger a nasty flare up.
As if stealing your pet’s blood wasn’t bad enough, fleas can pass bacteria, viruses and other parasites onto our pets when they feed. One such example is the tapeworm Dipylidium caninum , a particularly unpleasant creature that can grow up to 70cm long inside our pets!2 Dogs and cats become infected by this worm if they swallow infected fleas when they’re grooming. Infected pets shed wriggling worm segments in their poo, and what makes these particularly repulsive is that you may spot them crawling around in your pet’s fur! Thankfully, a dose of worming treatment will banish the pest, and remember to treat for fleas, too, otherwise your four-legged friend will simply become re-infected with a brand-new tapeworm when they swallow an infected flea!
If fleas have taken over your home, it can take a while to banish them, but help is at hand! The first step, naturally, is to use a flea treatment on your pet.
Fipnil Plus, available for both dogs and cats, is a simple spot-on treatment that kills fleas and ticks, as well as stopping the development of flea life stages in the home. If ticks aren’t a concern, then Imidaflea is another option; this spot-on flea treatment kills not just adult fleas, but flea larvae, too.
Since the fleas on your pet are only half the equation (in fact, they’re even less than that: adult fleas on your pet only make up around 5% of the entire flea population in your home!), dealing with the eggs, larvae, and pupae that have already taken up residence in your house is also key. Your vet will be able to recommend a flea spray to use around your home, to help you tackle the infestation from all sides.
Once fleas have moved in, getting every last one of them out can be challenging, and dealing with an established infestation can take time. It stands to reason, though, that our four-legged friends will encounter these irritating pests from time to time, so how do you stop these unwanted creatures from invading your home?
Thankfully, by keeping up with regular flea treatment for your pet, you can make sure that any fleas they meet are given the boot before they get the chance to take over! Both Fipnil Plus and Imidaflea can be used on an ongoing, monthly basis, to provide continued protection against these critters, giving you peace of mind that your four-legged friend can enjoy their adventures in peace!
Don’t let these uninvited house guests take over your home this summer! A monthly reminder on your calendar to apply a flea treatment to your pet is all it takes to keep your pet and your home protected against these irritating pests!
1.Dryden, M. W. Host association, on-host longevity and egg production of Ctenocephalides felis felis. Veterinary Parasitology 34, 117–122 (1989).