With half-term approaching, you might be getting ready to welcome family or friends into your home for the week, but make sure you don’t open up your doors to more than you bargained for! Fleas, commonly seen as more of a summer threat, are often forgotten about once the weather starts to get colder, but our centrally-heated homes mean these irritating pests can thrive all year round! Chances are that your dog or cat will come across these creatures at some point, so we’re here to answer all those burning questions you never knew you had about these common critters, and more importantly, to let you know how you can keep your four-legged friends protected!
Fleas are small insects that can only survive by living on the surface of warm-blooded animals and feeding on their blood. When they’re not biting your pet to get their next meal, they’re crawling through their fur, mating with other fleas, and laying eggs that fall into your home. Delightful, isn’t it?!
Adult fleas may need the warmth and shelter of your pet’s coat to survive (not to mention easy access to their blood), but that’s not even half the story! Fleas lay eggs that fall off your pet, and land in your home: on your carpets, floors, sofas…you get the idea! Small wriggling larvae hatch from these eggs, and after a time spent feeding, they spin cocoons around themselves, and become pupae. New adult fleas develop inside the protective cocoons, hatching out when they sense the presence of a warm-blooded creature nearby. Once the newly-hatched flea has leapt onto your pet, the whole miserable cycle begins all over again.
Scratching is one of the most common signs of a flea infestation; understandably really, since we feel itchy just thinking about them! Your four-legged pal might lick and chew at their skin, too, to try and relive the irritation from these biting pests; and all this can lead to sore skin and even hair loss. You might see the creatures themselves, crawling in your pet’s fur, but they’re not always easy to spot, as your pet’s thick coat often hides them from view. In fact, a survey carried out by the Royal Veterinary College discovered that, in cases where fleas had been identified, almost half of both dog and cat owners had no idea their pet was infested!1
Another thing to look out for is flea dirt – small black specks in your pet’s coat, that look a bit like pepper grains. These are flea droppings, produced by fleas after they’ve fed, and are made up of dried blood. If you comb your pet’s fur, and tap the contents onto a wet, white tissue, flea dirt will turn red upon touching the water, a sure-fire way to know your pet has fleas, even if you can’t see them!
Being bitten by tiny insects is, at best annoying; at worst, these pests can cause serious issues for our pets. One flea may be small, but when pets are crawling in the creatures, the resulting blood loss can be significant enough to result in anaemia, especially in puppies and kittens who don’t have a huge volume of blood in the first place! Fleas can transmit bacteria and viruses onto pets when they feed, and they can even introduce pets to another parasite: the flea tapeworm. Tapeworm cysts are carried by fleas, and when pets swallow these tiny insects when grooming, they can find themselves with one of these long wriggling creatures living inside them. Some of our four-legged friends are even allergic to flea saliva, for these unfortunate pets just a few bites can trigger an insanely itchy and sore skin condition, called flea allergic dermatitis.
Fleas need to feed on blood to survive, and they’re not too fussy about who they bite to get hold of it. When they first hatch, fleas have a strong drive to feed quickly, since their energy levels are low after the time spent inside their cocoons, and if you’re unlucky enough to be nearby at the time, you may well be the target! But don’t worry too much, fleas can’t live on us permanently; after biting us they will hop back off and hope to find a passing pet to set up their long-term home! Fleas usually emerge at ground level, and their phenomenal jumping skills take them up to about ankle height; so if you spot a cluster of raised, red (not to mention itchy!) bites around your ankles or lower legs, fleas may well be to blame!
You will be relieved to know that you do not have to put up with these irritating pests plaguing your pets and infesting your home; a range of fast, effective treatments are available that will see them off! Fipnil Plus is a spot-on solution that kills fleas (and ticks!), and has the added benefit of stopping the development of flea life stages in your home. Imidaflea is another highly effective option where tick control isn’t required, also a simple spot-on, it kills fleas on your pet and flea larvae in your home. Both products are available for both cats and dogs, are easy-to-apply, and work fast to kill fleas on your pet. Learn more about these products here.
As only adult fleas live on your pet, effective treatment (once an infestation is established), needs to also target the eggs, larvae and pupae that are scattered throughout your home. A household flea spray used throughout your home is the most effective way to do this, and combined with other steps, like washing your pet’s bedding on a hot wash (to kill any flea life stages lurking there) and vacuuming your home, gives you the best chance of eliminating these pests for good.
If you’re still seeing fleas several weeks after treating your pet, it’s understandable that you may be concerned that the treatment hasn’t worked. However, in most cases, the fleas you are seeing are not the same fleas you started with, but “new” fleas, that have hatched out of cocoons in your home, and jumped onto your pet. The flea treatment will act fast to kill them, but it can take a while (sometimes many months) for this “back-log” of fleas in your home to hatch out and die. Household flea sprays play a big part in killing eggs, larvae and even newly-hatched fleas; but fleas inside their cocoons are very protected, and it’s almost inevitable that new waves of fleas will be seen for some time, before the problem is eventually cleared.
If you’ve ever had to deal with a flea infestation in your home, it’s unlikely you’ll want these creatures showing up for a repeat visit! Luckily keeping our pets protected against these pests is straightforward. Both Fipnil Plus and Imidaflea can be used every month, to offer ongoing flea protection, ensuring that if your pet does meet these irritating creatures on their travels, they won’t get the chance to set up residence on your pet and take over your home!