Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness
With the chillier autumn months here and the central heating switched on again, do be very aware of Flea infestations and of advised good flea control treatments for your pets, particularly for cat and multi-pet households.
Fleas are the most common external parasite of cats and dogs. They measure 2mm long and are reddish-brown in colour. They can live for 100 days and they begin to lay eggs 36-48 hours after their first blood meal. The female fleas jump off after feeding from their host to lay up to 50 eggs a day in your carpets and soft furnishings. Flea larvae then hatch from these eggs and these flea larvae can then burrow into the furnishings and carpets. When the larvae pupate, they can then remain dormant for up to a year. They are then awoken by vibrations and with warmth such as the central heating going on again. Adult fleas will then emerge and jump onto your pet to feed and so continue their lifecycle, or they may jump onto you.
So our centrally heated homes with fitted carpets provide perfect conditions for fleas to develop all year round.
The most obvious first symptom of a flea infestation is your pet scratching a lot. You may also notice itchy, red, raised bites on your pets and on your own skin. Dampen some white paper towel or cotton wool and comb out your pet's coat out over this wetted pad. If you see little black, comma shaped specks on the pad that leak out into reddish blotches, then you have found flea dirt. If you do find flea dirt, then do treat your pet for fleas immediately. If you let the flea infestation continue, then your pet will be itchy and miserable, they will start nibbling and scratching at their skin, or constantly over-groom themselves resulting in bald, bare areas of inflamed painful skin. If your pet is actually allergic to the flea saliva, they may also develop painful, inflamed, raised skin scabs, usually around the tail head and neck area. This can develop into a severe allergic dermatitis. This can be debilitating and does need Veterinary treatment to clear this up.
All pets can get fleas. If your dog or cat goes outside, they will be meeting other cats and wildlife. Also, with indoor cats, fleas could still come into your home on human clothing. Also if you have bought any second hand soft furnishings, they could come already with the flea pupae already inside. If you've just moved into a new house, flea eggs could be in the carpets from previous affected pets, waiting to emerge with the new activity and resumed warmth within the new home. Also if you work with or around animals you could be bringing unwanted fleas home with you from work on your clothing.
So, it is best to be aware and to know that unfortunately, fleas are always around year round, and then act accordingly. Remember that good Flea prevention is far better than cure.
If you find fleas and flea dirt on your pet, you will have to a) treat your pet, and also b) deal with potential fleas within the household. Remember that about 95% of fleas and flea eggs in your home are not on your pet. To help prevent fleas becoming established within your home it is essential to also treat the home with a good advised Household Flea Product and to vacuum all the carpets and soft furnishings. Remember also to treat all pet beds, cat baskets etc. and also remember the car boot and seat covers too.
It is much better to prevent a flea infestation in the first place by having a regular, routine flea treatment in place for all your pets all year round.
Consult us about the best and most effective preventative year round flea treatments available.
Never use a dog flea product on your cat as these can be extremely toxic to cats.
Never use a household flea spray mean for furnishings on any of your pets.
I hope you and your pets have a happy, flea-free Autumn!