Facts About Fleas …

  • 28/05/2016
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The world is host to over 2,000 species of flea, and they are a problem almost everywhere. Fleas affect dogs and cats, as well as wild animals such as foxes—and can be unpleasant for owners too. When a flea jumps onto your pet, it will start feeding within 5 minutes and may suck blood for up to 2½ hours. Female fleas are the most voracious, consuming up to 15 times their own body weight in blood. A single flea can live on your dog or cat for almost 2 months! Flea infestations can rapidly get out of control. This is because fleas lay eggs in such large numbers.

Laying at a rate of 40 to 50 per day for around 50 days, a single female can produce 2,000 eggs! Within as little as 2 days, flea larvae will hatch and hide in dark places on the ground, in carpets or upholstery. After about a week of feeding on adult flea droppings, crumbs, flakes of skin etc., the larvae spin cocoons to become pupae. The pupae can remain in this stage for very long periods of time. The cycle continues when, in as little as a week or so, the pupae emerge from their cocoons as adult fleas. This occurs when they sense that a dog or cat, or other animal host, is near. The entire life cycle - which can take as little as 12 days or as long as 180 days – can then begin again.

Flea bites may go unnoticed on some pets, cause slight irritation in others and produce extensive itching, red lesions, hair loss and even ulcers in those animals with flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). The latter clinical condition arises in individual animals as a result of extreme sensitivity to flea saliva. Severe flea infestations can cause anaemia, especially in puppies and kittens. Fleas can also transmit several diseases to dogs, cats and even humans including the dog tapeworm known as Dipylidium caninum.

How to spot a flea

Adult fleas can sometimes be easy to spot, particularly in short and light-colored fur. They are more difficult to find in dark-haired pets. Furthermore, pets may groom the fleas out before you have a chance to see them; so your pet may have fleas, but you may not always see them. Try parting the coat near the base of the tail using your hands or a flea comb and look for movement. Most fleas grow to about the size of a pinhead and will move or jump when disturbed.     

Even if you don’t see any fleas, have a look for dark, pepper-like particles on the surface of your pet’s skin and coat. These may be ‘flea dirt’, which are flea droppings. You can easily confirm this by dabbing some of this material with a wet paper towel or cotton ball. If you see dark reddish brown or orange swirls, this is flea dirt and confirms that your pet has fleas. You need to take action now and contact your vet.

Controlling fleas

The best way to control flea infestations is to prevent them from happening in the first place. This is accomplished either by killing the adult fleas before they can reproduce and/or by preventing their eggs from developing into normal adult fleas. These flea treatments are available as a number of preparations including collars, ’spot-ons’, powders, sprays, shampoos and, more recently, oral medications. They vary in terms of the length of protection they provide from 4 weeks to many months. Using a product that provides longer lasting protection reduces the opportunity for missed doses that would occur with a monthly treatment. Thorough daily vacuuming of high-traffic areas and frequent washing of pets’ bedding will also go a long way in reducing the flea population in the home.

For further information on fleas please visit www.bravopets.ie

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