Is your pet scratching? They may have fleas. Fleas are relatively common in domestic animals and most will experience them at least once in their lifetime.
However, it is important that pet owners understand how to rid their animal of fleas and prevent further infestations. Fleas can pose a serious health risk to animals; they carry parasites such as tapeworms and can transmit diseases, and heavily infested young animals such as puppies and kittens can die from blood loss. Also, fleas can cause your pet a lot of discomfort, and if left untreated can cause a full blown flea infestation in your home.
Animals are most at risk during the summer months, as warm and humid conditions speed up the flea life cycle. It is also most likely your pet will spend more time outdoors in the summer, putting them into contact with other animals and environments in which fleas live, such as long grass. Fleas are able to jump up to 7 inch's, allowing them to leap onto animals as they pass by. They will then live on the animal, feeding on blood by piercing the skin with special, tube shaped mouthparts and continuously sucking until they are full. They will then move to another area to feed.
These bites cause discomfort, and dogs and cats in particular can have an extreme allergic reaction to flea saliva. This is called allergic dermatitis; it causes intense itching, leading dogs and cats to chew and scratch at their tail, front legs and rump. Excessive scratching and biting of these areas can lead to inflamed or crusty skin, hair loss and ulcers. This is particularly dangerous as broken skin can allow bacteria into the blood stream, which can cause serious infection.
If you suspect your pet is playing host, there are several ways you can confirm a flea infestation. One of the most obvious signs is flea dirt present in their fur. Flea dirt is what fleas excrete, and is mainly composed of digested blood. A good way to check if a bit of dirt is flea excrement is to put it on some kitchen roll, drip some water over and smear the dirt with your finger; if the smear has a red tinge then it is flea dirt. If this is found, you must investigate your pet's fur for infestation; fleas are visible to the eye and look mahogany-brown in colour, with 3 pairs of legs.
It is possible for your pet to have a single flea without infestation. This is often referred to as a 'hitch-hiker', an adult flea which has jumped onto your pet from another environment rather than spawned from an egg already laid in their fur. As long as this flea is removed by either using a flea comb or a topical treatment, infestation should not occur as no life cycle is present.
There are several ways to treat animals for flea infestation, but we find topical treatments work best. There is a wide range of topical treatments available to kill fleas; you simply apply this directly onto your pet's skin. Oral flea treatments also work well, however if this is over the counter you must know the weight of your pet to determine the correct dosage. Keep in mind that when using any flea treatment you must choose one that is appropriate for the size and age of your pet. Very young/old, injured or ill animals should be assessed by a vet before starting any treatment.
We think prevention is always better than cure. Routinely treating your pet with a spot on flea treatment will ensure any fleas they come into contact with will die before laying eggs, preventing infestation. Also, regularly washing your pet with anti-flea shampoo will repel fleas and help wash away any eggs or flea dirt. However, we do not recommend giving your pet a flea bath if they have recently been treated with a spot on treatment. Flea collars can also be very effective when worn during walks through wooded areas, but you must ensure these are safe to combine with any other flea treatment being used. Finally, frequently washing pet bedding, blankets and carpets ensures fleas will be unable to survive if brought into your home.
If you are still unsure, you can call us for some advice: (01228) 560082