As a responsible pet owner, the F word should be revisited regularly. We mean fleas, of course! So, while collars and spot-on treatments are quick and easy, fully grasping the life cycle of fleas (and ticks) will help you prevent those pesky parasites altogether. Keep reading for all you need to know...
Fleas are small wingless insects that live on our pets, in our environment and our homes. Female fleas can lay up to a whopping 50 eggs a day, which helps explain why these pesky parasites are so prevalent.
They have a four-stage life cycle: going from egg to larva to pupa and finally, to adult. As pupae (imagine a cocoon), they can patiently wait for up to one year for a host to be nearby before they become an adult. The adult flea will then attach to your pet and feed off their blood. In sum, not a pretty picture!
Fleas can be picked up from outdoors – but also via contact with other animals or infested homes. And although peak flea season runs from summer through autumn, today’s heated homes give fleas a free pass to linger around all year.
Checking your pet for fleas
Fleas can be tricky to spot. We recommend the paper towel test: place a sheet of kitchen roll by your pet and give their fur a quick shake or comb-through. You may see little black specs falling onto the paper. Now, pour a small amount of water into the towel and if the specks turn a reddish hue, then they’re likely flea droppings.
You may see the occasional flea scurrying through your cat’s or dog’s coat – and that’s normal. While flea treatments won’t stop transient fleas from latching on to your pet, they will quickly kill these ‘hitchhikers’.
Signs of flea infection include scabbing, red inflamed lumps and intense itching, scratching, biting and licking. Some pets may also experience flea-allergy dermatitis, an allergic reaction to flea saliva.
When multiple fleas are seen on the animal or in your home (or if family members have been bitten), this could indicate that your home is infested. Further down below, we explain how to eradicate fleas on your pet and in your home for good.
What about ticks?
Ticks are small, rounded arachnids that also feed on blood. They vary in size and, when engorged, can resemble a smooth coffee bean. On your pet, you’ll find them in areas with little hair: around the ears, face or tummy.
Tick season runs from March to November. Most of their life cycle is spent outside in areas with dense vegetation and long grass such as parks and woodland. So keeping pets protected, as well as keeping grass short where possible, can help prevent tick infections.
Signs of tick infection include a bullseye-type rash, painful or stiff limbs, tiredness, fever, lack of appetite and, sometimes, anaemia or sudden collapse.
Ticks can also carry disease to humans and pets, with Lyme disease being more and more common. Therefore, preventative care is important.
Protecting your pet from fleas and ticks
Spot-on pipettes like Frontline Plus and Advantage are both great options for flea and tick prevention. In addition, a Scalibor collar will give your dog six months' protection against ticks, mosquitoes and sand flies.
For treatment, using Capstar tablets will kill adult fleas and stop the development of eggs. However, there are many alternative treatments available.
Regularly check your pet for ticks and, when needed, use a tick remover.
If you’re unsure about the right course of treatment for your pet, give our Animal Health Advisors a call! We’ll help you choose the right product for your furry friend.
Treating your home for fleas
Only 5 per cent of fleas are actually on your pet. The remaining 95 per cent will usually be in the environment as eggs, larvae or pupae. So to eradicate fleas completely, you must treat both your pet and your home. Here are some tips.
- Use a household flea spray around your home.
- Wash your pet’s soft bedding and any removable covers at 60ºC or higher.
- Vacuum the house daily and thoroughly for 2-3 weeks, paying special attention to the areas your pet favours the most. Dispose of vacuum bags regularly, as these can harbour a build-up of fleas. Spray some of the household flea spray into the new vacuum bag too.
- Ensure every pet is regularly treated for fleas.
- Allow treated pets access to all areas of your home. If there are fleas hanging around, they’ll jump onto your pet and will get killed by the treatment.
It can take several weeks to eradicate fleas from your home, so being patient is key!