Fleas are extremely common parasites that feed off the blood of mammals, which includes pets such as dogs, cats, rabbits and they will also bite humans. Most pet owners have seen them at some point, since these tiny brown insects are very common and can be a problem all year round.
Although fleas are usually not a life threatening problem except in very young or very sick animals, they cause a lot of problems for pets and owners alike. Flea bites cause discomfort, itchiness and some pets can be allergic to their saliva. Affected pets often over-groom and scratch themselves a lot more than usual, leading to hair loss, red patches and even skin damage. If left unchecked these small scabs can become an open door for secondary infection.
Fleas are responsible for transmitting tapeworm to cats and dogs. This happens if a dog or a cat swallows a flea infected with tapeworm eggs, while grooming. These parasites will also transmit myxomatosis among rabbits (wild and domestic), which is a devastating and often fatal disease.
Fleas can be hard to get rid of mainly due to their life cycle. Only adult fleas will bite your pet and they can start laying eggs within 24 hours of their first meal.
These eggs will fall off your pet into the ground, where they hatch and develop into adult fleas. This means that they will develop in your pet's surrounding environment (bedding, floors, carpets, couches, etc.). Not only this means that most of the problem is not on your pet, it is in its environment, but it also means that fleas can easily thrive during the colder months, since they can be safely hiding or developing in our warm, comfortable homes.
For all these reasons it is very important to keep your pet's flea treatment up to date, even during the winter months.
If you do have a flea problem it is very important to treat your home, particularly your pet's environment since that is where eggs and larvae will be. It is also key that all pets at home are treated, since fleas can easily jump from one pet to another. Your vet can recommend the best solution for your pet, since there is a wide variety of treatments and products available (spot on solutions, collars, tablets, sprays, etc.). Please make sure you follow your vet's instructions and that you treat your pet with the appropriate products. Many dog flea treatments contains permethrin, an insecticide that is highly toxic for cats!
How to check my pet for fleas?
Search your pet's fur looking closely at the skin surface for small black grains of sand. They are more commonly seen on their backs near the base of the tail. Those black grains of sand are faeces left behind by the fleas after feeding. You might also be able to see the fleas themselves walking around.
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