Pets do get fleas and not just the mucky ones; I have to tell people this quite often who come into my pet shop. Many people claim their pets don’t need flea products because their animals have never been infected. Just the other day I noticed my dog was scratching a bit more than usual and when I checked her coat I discovered that “yes” she had them.
Adult fleas treats your pet as a food source, they jump on to feed but don’t stay there, the rest of its life is spent in the local environment, i.e. your carpets, rugs and furniture, here it will lay it’s eggs, ‘thousands of them’. These eggs then hatch into larvae and find their way into any dark, warm spaces. From here they turn into pupae, which then hatch into an adult flea. This can take a matter of just days, or the pupae can remain dormant for many months, allowing the fleas to survive the winter outside. This is why, when your pets have fleas, it is so important to treat the house as well. In fact only 5% of the total flea population is the adult flea, the other 95% are the eggs, larvae and pupae of the next generation.
Fleas survive by sucking blood from your pet. In fact, they much prefer pets to people, so even if you are not being bitten, does not mean you don’t have a problem! If you are getting bites, it is likely you have a large infestation and the fleas are feeding on you in desperation. This is why it is so important to regularly check and treat your pets for fleas. You don’t often see live fleas on a pet (and if you do, again the infestation is likely to be heavy) but you can spot flea dirt. This looks like flecks of black soil but will readily turn red when combed from the fur and dampened on a piece of paper. Other signs include excessive scratching (in dogs) or grooming (in cats), small scabs appearing on the back or tail base and sore skin. Fleas are by far the most common cause of skin irritations in animals and should always be treated for in any dermatological problems, whether they have been seen or not.
There are various ways of protecting your pet against fleas and the most convenient and effective are spot on products. The best don’t go into the animal’s blood stream but stay in the skin, where they will kill fleas before they can feed. These types of product are particularly useful for animals that are allergic. With some pets even a single bite can start a bad reaction resulting in further treatment being needed. Some spot-on products will also help treat the local environment and prevent any of the larvae from developing in areas where the pet resides. These types of product are available from either your vet, on-line pharmacies or pet shops. With treating smaller animals or young ones, flea sprays or powder are best, as they allow very accurate dosing and are very safe. You may also find it beneficial to bathe the animal using a flea shampoo. Tablets are also available for pets who will take them, and who are not allergic to flea bites, with these the insect needs to bite its host before it is killed.