If you share your life with a four legged companion, it’s likely you will come across a flea infestation at one point or another. It’s something that every pet owner dreads, seeing their pet afflicted with those pesky little insects.

Fleas are canny creatures and they have a way of making their way into your home and onto your pets, even with preventions in place. Dogs and cats often get infested with fleas through contact with other animals, or by just being in a certain environment. That’s why it’s important to know about all the treatment and prevention of fleas, which, lets face it, is just as important to you as it is to your pet.

To know if your pet might have a flea problem, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is your pet scratching?
  2. Can you see tiny dark specks in its fur, or small browny-black insects scurrying about?
  3. Do you have any unaccounted for insect bites yourself?

Fleas can be found scurrying along the surface of the skin. They are dark coloured insects, about the size of  of a pin head, but they are easier to spot than you may think. Fleas dislike light so looking for them within furry areas and on your pet’s belly and inner thighs will provide you with the best chances of spotting them. A fleas bite can cause itching for your pet but for a sensitive or flea-allergic pet, this itching can be quite severe and lead to hair loss, inflammation and skin infections so it’s important to look out for the first signs of itching. Even if you notice just one or two insects on your pet, treat it seriously, before it becomes a full blown infestation.

To combat fleas, it’s important to know their life cycle. There are four stages of a flea life – egg, larvae, pupae and adult. The length it takes to complete the cycle varies depending on their environment and nourishment. Fleas like warm blooded animals, like cats and dogs (and even humans). The adult female flea typically lives for several weeks on the pet. During this time period she will suck the animal’s blood two to three times and lay twenty to thirty eggs each day. She may lay several hundred eggs over her life span. These eggs can fall off of the pet into their bedding, the carpet/area rug, the garden and wherever else the animal spends time. These eggs then proceed to develop where they have landed and hatch into larvae. These tiny worm-like larvae live among the carpet fibers, in cracks of the floor, and outside in the environment. The larvae then grow to a pupate, waiting for the right time to hatch into an adult. They can survive quite a long time, waiting until environmental conditions are just right. Once developed, the newly emerged adult flea can then jump onto their victim.

So why do you need to know this? Well it helps with understanding the need to treat both the animal and the indoor and outdoor environment in order to fully combat the flea infestation. If you think simply sprinkling some flea powder on your pet will work then you’re wrong! Set aside a couple of hours to treat the problem.

There are several methods of flea control for pets. Non prescription medicines include, flea collars, shampoos, flea combs, and sprays. However it’s important to be aware that some of these products may be less effective than prescription products. For example, many flea collars will only work by killing adult fleas on your pet’s head and neck, whilst fleas further down the body survive. Look for flea collars that contain IGR’s to kill the eggs and larvae. Along with these methods, there’s also a large selection of prescription products you can purchase however it’s important to consult your vet about the best form of flea treatment for your pet. Products suitable for one species may not be suitable for another e.g. dog flea treatments contain permethrin, an insecticide that is safe for dogs but highly toxic to cats. With your pet treated, you will then need to treat the indoor and outdoor environment. Wash all of your pets bedding, turn the heating on and vacuum the entire house (the heat and vibration will stimulate the fleas to hatch), and use flea sprays on all floors, furniture and any area outside where your pet like to spend time.

Please remember, your vet will be your best source for current flea information and treatments. Flea infestation IS a battle! But with the right methods and preventions you’ll have a very thankfully, happy pet in return 🙂

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