Albany Blog

Fleas

By March 15, 2023No Comments

Fleas are a year-round problem due our relatively mild climate and centrally heated homes. They are hard to spot and infestations in unprotected pets and their homes can develop quickly.

 

The four stages of the flea life cycle

Adult fleas – feed on the blood of your pet. The female flea mates and lays smooth pearly-white eggs.

Eggs – these scatter from your pet as they move around their home. They’ll be in carpets, pet bedding, soft furnishings, under skirting and floorboards, in the car, and any outbuildings your pet visits.

Flea larvae – after 2-14 days, depending on environmental temperature, the eggs hatch into larvae (that look like small maggots) that then feed on flea faeces, skin and dandruff in the environment. They prefer the dark, so burrow into carpets and upholstery and beneath floorboards.

Pupae – after approximately a week, each mature larva spins a cocoon, the outside of which is sticky in order for environmental debris to attach to it to provide protection. 10 days later (although this can be considerably longer in cold or dry conditions) the adult flea is fully developed inside the pupa. It will wait for signs of a host being available, such as pressure on carpets, noise and vibration, before it emerges and finds a host to jump on.

 

Signs your pet might have fleas:

Scratching

Hair loss

Redness, irritation or soreness

Dark specks in fur

Bites on humans sharing a house with your pet

 

 

 

To check for fleas

Comb your pet’s fur with a very fine-toothed comb over a piece of dampened white kitchen paper. Flea faeces will appear as small black dots with a reddish-brown tinge (this is undigested blood, yuck!)

 

The effects of fleas

Allergic reactions – pets can be very sensitive to flea saliva and can develop Flea Allergic Dermatitis, a condition that can cause intense itching, rashes, hair loss and skin infections.

Blood loss – adult fleas feed on blood. This is particularly concerning in young or frail animals.

Tapeworm transmission – these are flat, segmented parasites that use their hook-like mouths to attach to the wall of the intestine. Flea larvae consume tapeworm eggs from the environment and once inside, these eggs continue to develop as the flea matures. If, during grooming, an animal eats a flea infected with tapeworm, as the animal’s body digests the flea, the tapeworm egg is released and hatches and attaches to the intestinal lining. Segments (that look like grains of rice) containing eggs of the tapeworm are then expelled in the animal’s faeces and the cycle begins again.

Transmission of disease – such as Cat Scratch Disease, a bacterial infection that can affect humans when an infected cat’s claws or teeth break the skin. Cats become infected with Bartonella henselae bacteria when they’re bitten by fleas carrying the bacteria or flea dirt gets into their wounds.

 

Treating a flea infestation

It is important to carry out all of the below for successful eradication:

Treat all pets appropriately with a prescription product from a veterinary surgeon. Continue with regular treatment to avoid future infestations.

Treat your home with a household spray, following instructions carefully. Don’t forget to treat your pet’s carrier, the car, garage and any outhouses or places where your pet spends time.

Thoroughly vacuum – the tough cocoon of the pupae stage means that no chemicals are able to penetrate to kill this stage; the vibration of regular household vacuuming speeds up the life cycle by encouraging the pupae to hatch and be killed by the residual household spray in the environment.

Wash, on as hot a wash as possible (check labels), your pet’s bedding and any household soft furnishings with which they have come into contact.

 

 

Preventing parasites

To avoid the risks to your pet, the financial cost and the hassle of a flea infestation, prevention is definitely better than cure!

Routinely use a preventative parasite control product prescribed by a veterinary surgeon.

Vacuum regularly and thoroughly.

Clean up pet faeces promptly to reduce the risk of infective parasites in the environment.

Regularly wash pet bedding.