Fleas are very common parasites that constitute a source of discomfort not only for your dog or your cat, but also for yourself.
Fleas in the adult stage live in the fur of your pet, leaving bites that are visible and rather itchy. But you should also pay attention to the less mature stages (larvae, cocoons, eggs) that are problematic and can quickly engulf not just your pet but also your environment. However, don't panic! Here is everything you need to avoid, detect and get rid of fleas.
Why you should worry about fleas
Fleas like feeding on the blood of your cats and dogs, nestled in against the skin. It's a quick food fix for them but one that can have direct consequences on the well-being of your pet. The dermatological reactions that this can cause can be as simple as red bites, cutaneous lesions, or as serious as an allergic reaction. Fleas can also transmit certain illnesses, including intestinal problems caused by the worm Dipylidium caninum or more diverse issues as a result of Bartonella bacteria that affects the blood cells. In addition, these parasites like hot and humid environments: they can mature outside from spring to autumn, but inside can flourish all year round.
Preventative treatment against fleas
A pet that goes outside regularly or one that is frequently in contact with other animals has a higher risk of being infected with fleas. In order to combat this unwanted parasite, preventative treatment is strongly recommended. This treatment can be put in place from not long after birth or when you first acquire your pet, and also throughout their life.
There are numerous flea treatments methods: there are pills, topical treatments, and collar options, among other variations. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best method for your pet that would be adapted to their species, breed, age and temperament - because giving a pill to a cat is a lot easier said than done!
What does a flea look like
Adult fleas are brown parasites that measure between 1 and 8 mm long, and are therefore visible to the naked eye. They have three pairs of legs, the front ones allowing them to jump more than 300 times their size. The larvae are smaller, between 1 and 2.5 mm long with a less compact shape than the adult fleas.
How to check your pet for fleas
An infested animal can scratch at themselves, but they can still show no signs of bites. This is why you should not underestimate the presence of fleas. In order to spot them, you don't have to go through a song and dance! You just need to arm yourself with an anti-flea comb with rigid teeth. Once you have laid your hands on one, simply brush your pet. This will accumulate hairs, and with them will be flea droppings or even fleas themselves.
In order to make sure that these are in fact flea droppings and not other debris, drop what you have collected on a piece of cloth or a paper towel, and put a couple of drops of water on said particles. If the fabric is taints red, this means that your pet has indeed contracted a case of fleas.
Getting rid of fleas
Treat all your pets
If one of your pets is infested with fleas, it will be necessary to treat all the four-legged friends in the family. Fleas can be transmitted from one host to another with flabbergasting speed, whether they be of the same or different species. For example, the cat flea Ctenocephalides felis can also feed on dogs, rabbits, or even you! When there is a large infestation in your environment, you may start to find yourself being bitten at the base of your calves.
Treat the environment
Treating the environment against fleas is crucial. Only 5% of fleas are at the adult stage at any one time and feed on the blood of your pet, meaning that 95% of the fleas present are developing in larvae form in your environment. Therefore, if you wish to get rid of the fleas present, you will need to clean your home thoroughly. The larvae and eggs of fleas have the annoying tendency to find themselves in the furthest reaches of your house. For example, it is very common to find flea larvae between the planks of your parquet flooring.
The first stage of cleaning is a thorough vacuuming everywhere in your home. Once this is done, you will need to throw away the vacuum bag so that the vacuumed fleas can't get back into your environment. While for the second stage we recommend washing any fabric that your pets have come into contact with, this can also be a logistical and time-consuming nightmare. There are many time-saving options available to treat your environment: sprays that go directly onto surfaces that come into contact with your pet/s or even smoke bombs to be diffused in your home.
Your vet will be able to advise you on the best course of action for you, your pet/s, and even your home. It's best to chat with them early or on your next visit.
What's your worst experience with fleas?