What Are Fleas?
Fleas are the most common external parasite that pets and owners have to deal with. Luckily, there are a wide array of products available to prevent them from causing a problem.
Fleas can be found almost everywhere with thousands of different species across the world. The most common flea that affects dogs and cats, though, is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis).
For the most part, fleas just cause irritation (secondary infection and wounds can occur from the pet scratching), but in certain cases, a severe allergic reaction to the flea bites and flea dirt “feces” can occur. This condition is referred to as flea allergic dermatitis and is more common in cats than dogs.
Fleas can also transmit parasites such as tapeworms and bacteria such as bartonella (cat scratch fever) to people. Fleas prefer warm, humid conditions and only jump onto pets (and people) to feed, so an important consideration is to treat the household as well as the pet when trying to eradicate them.
How Can I Tell My Pet Has Fleas?
Constant scratching is a good sign that your pet may have fleas. Often, adult fleas can be seen on the pet, but most commonly it is the flea dirt that is noticed when parting the hair coat (it’s reddish brown in color).
TOP TIP: A quick test is to dampen a piece of paper towel and then brush your pet’s fur over it. As the flea dirt contains blood, you will note reddish spots on the damp towel forming.
How Do I Prevent Fleas?
The first rule with flea prevention is to always use a product recommended by your veterinarian. There are many pet shop products that just don’t do the job effectively.
The most common pet products are in the form of a “spot on applicator” which applies the drug directly to the skin of your pet between the shoulder blades (this is so your pet cannot lick the fluid off). The applicator dose is based on your pet’s weight; your veterinarian will decide what’s best.
As mentioned above, it is also important to eradicate fleas from the home environment; your veterinarian should recommend an effective, long lasting spray.
Marrying the above preventatives with regular vacuuming, washing pet bedding and (mainly for dogs) bathing your pet should stop fleas from becoming a problem.
KEY POINT: Only use flea products on the species for which they are intended and also follow instructions carefully.
By ridding your pet of these pests, you’ll be doing your furry friend and yourself a favor.