Most cats and dogs will have fleas at sometime in their life.
Fleas cause discomfort, and may also spread disease and cause allergies.
Severe infestation can also cause anaemia, particularly in very young puppies.
Know your enemy!
Adult fleas are red-brown parasites about 2-4mm long that jump onto our pets, bite them and suck their blood! These bites cause irritation and make the animal scratch; some animals develop a hypersensitivity to the flea saliva making a single bite distressing.
Fleas do not just feed on animals – they are known to enjoy a bite of us too!
Only about 5-10% of the population of fleas at any one time will be on your pet. The remainder are larva/pupae or present as eggs in your carpet or pets’ bedding.
So treatment firstly aims to kill the adult fleas and secondly against development of the eggs and immature stages.
There is a massive range of products available to control fleas and veterinary prescribed products are much more effective than some ‘pet shop’ treatments.
Which Flea Treatment?
Regular anti-flea treatment to prevent fleas rather than waiting for an unpleasant flea problem to fix in the house is advised!
• Spot On treatments (Advantix®, Advocate® and Frontline Combo®)
There are several spot on treatments available, some also prevent ticks and others are effective against lungworm and skin mites. Please discuss with your vets the most appropriate treatment for your pet. Most veterinary licensed products are effective for a 1month period at killing adult fleas and preventing development of the larvae.
• Collars (Seresto®)
There is a new flea collar available which has a 7-8month period of activity This is only sold through veterinary practices and is available for cats and dogs.
• Tablets (Program®)
There are tablets for cats and dogs given on a monthly basis that can prevent the development of the flea’s eggs and larvae, but they do not kill the adult fleas.
• Injections (Program suspension for injection®)
There are injections available which are given to cats every 6 months to inhibit development of the immature stages of the flea life.
Other useful treatments
1. Regularly vacuum the house.
2. Spray the house with an insecticidal effect against adult fleas and larvae (Indorex®).
3. Wash the bedding and any soft furnishings in a hot wash to remove eggs and larvae.
Other External Parasites
If untreated, external parasites can lead to skin infections, and scabies mites can be passed onto humans. So if you see creepy crawlies, or if your pet is itchy seek veterinary advice.
• Lice – pale brown and resemble fleas but are much smaller. They cause itching and irritation.
• Mites – can cause intense irritation and itching but are invisible to the naked eye. Examination of a skin scraping under a microscope may be needed for diagnosis.
• Mange mites – burrow into the skin.
• Cheyletiella mites – do not burrow and are sometimes called ‘walking dandruff’.
• Ear mites - cause irritation and the production of dark brown ear wax and an unpleasant smell if the ear becomes infected.
• Harvest mites – small orange mites which tend to attach themselves in the folds of the ear or between the toes. Seen in late summer and cause some irritation.
• Ticks – Round and can swell to the size of a pea with a purple appearance. Never try to remove a tick without being shown how to do this first as the barbed mouth parts can be left behind leading to infection.