Fleas

What are fleas?

Fleas are small, blood sucking parasites and the most common external parasites found on dogs and cats.

Why should I be worried about fleas?

Flea bites cause severe irritation and many pets become profoundly allergic to flea saliva resulting in uncontrollable itching, hair loss and secondary skin infections.  Fleas also carrying tapeworm.  Fleas are not fussy about who they feast on and they will readily bite humans as well!

How do I know if my pet has fleas?

Flea dirt (poo!)

 

You may see the occasional live flea but often the only evidence of a flea infestation seen is the flea faeces or ‘flea dirt’ they leave behind. Buy a flea comb from the pet shop and run this through your pet’s coat, paying particular attention to the lower back and tail base.  Then wipe the comb onto a damp piece of white tissue.  If you see tiny black specks of dirt which then dissolve and leave a brown smudge, your pet has fleas!

Where do fleas come from and when should we look out for them?

Fleas are present everywhere.  Foxes, rodents and most wildlife carry fleas and every garden, park, field and woodland in the country will be home to fleas all year round.  Fleas can jump several feet to jump onto a suitable host so avoiding them is impossible.  Whilst flea populations tend to peak in the summer, they are an increasing problem during the winter months as they thrive in heated indoor environments so untreated houses, pubs, shops, cars etc may all be home to a thriving flea population!

I have combed my pet with a flea comb and removed all fleas, does this resolve the problem?

No! A common misconception amongst pet owners is that flea infestations are clearly visible or that their pet only has one or two fleas because this is all they have seen. The reality is that for every flea you find on your pet, there are likely to be hundreds if not thousands developing in the environment i.e. your house!  It is only when they have matured that they will jump on your pet to feed. If the environment remains untreated, an infestation can continue for 3 years even without an animal being present!

I have treated for fleas with a collar/spot-on and treated the house with a flea bomb/spray but am still finding fleas on my pet. Why is this? 

Unfortunately fleas in this area have developed resistance to many popular products available on the internet or from the pet shop.  As with bacteria and resistance to antibiotics, if a product is used extensively over several years then the fleas will eventually become immune.  This seems to be the case with many products containing containing fipronil and permethrin (e.g. Frontline, Effipro, Eliminal, Bob Martin FleaClear) which have been used extensively in many products over the last decade so be careful not to waste your money on products that are no longer effective.

Some shop bought products also use older, chemical insecticides which can provoke quite severe adverse reactions (especially in cats) so if in doubt consult us for advice before using something bought off the shelf – we are more than happy to advise on products acquired from elsewhere to ensure the safety and continued good health of our patients 🙂

The same is true of many household flea bombs and sprays so exercise caution and seek our advice before purchasing products to treat your house.

What products should I be using to keep my pets free of fleas?

Speak to us about our current recommendations – there are new products coming on the market all the time as the manufacturers come up with ever safer and more effective treatments.  Particularly exciting are the develop of new generation spot-ons and three-monthly tablets that seem to be hugely effective and very safe.   Due to the costs of developing these new products they may be marginally more expensive but importantly they work – buying a cheap product that has no effect against fleas and may even cause harmful side effects is very much a false economy!

I don’t think my pet has fleas so do I need to use any flea products?

Prevention is better than cure!  Once you have fleas in the house it can be a real struggle and a long slog to get rid of them.  The vast majority of flea products we supply are for preventative use and regular, year round use of an effective product is the only way to ensure you and your pet are protected from these deeply unpleasant pests!

What about alternative/natural treatments such as Garlic?

These products are not effective enough on their own to keep the fleas away but some feel that they increase their pets resistance to fleas as well as boosting the response to appropriate treatments.  As they are generally fairly safe, there is no harm in using these in conjunction with a recommended veterinary product.

I have treated my pets and my house and think I have eliminated the fleas – what next?

As mentioned above, there is no room for complacency so be vigilant and keep your pets and house treated on a regular basis – missing only one or two months’ treatment may lead to re-infestation and remember that fleas can lie dormant for many years just waiting to exploit such an opportunity!

Do not be complacent….I’ll be back!

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