Have you ever been bitten by a flea? Then you know how itchy it can be. Now multiply the itch by a hundred and you know what poor Rover or Tigger must constantly feel when hassled by these parasites. This can come about when our pets are not appropriately treated with flea control. There can be literally hundreds of fleas on one animal! The itch is produced by the actual bite and the flea's saliva which contains anti blood clotting agents. But this is not where it stops! Many animals become allergic to the saliva and develop an agonising inflammation of the skin called flea allergy dermatitis. When this happens, the animal becomes highly sensitive to flea bites. As a result of the itch, they constantly scratch and bite themselves – even up to the point of bleeding! But again, this is not all! Fleas can also carry other parasites and can pass them on when biting our pets. Immature fleas pick up tape worm larvae from the environment. Once swallowed by our pet (during grooming), the tapeworm develops into a fully fledged worm (up to 60cm long!) inside our pet's intestines.
If a pet is covered in fleas, they can cause the animal to become anaemic due to the amount of blood they suck. This problem is seen especially in kittens and puppies.
The most commonly found flea on our pets (dogs and cats!) is the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis. It is a small, red-brown insect that leads a complex life. Only the adult flea lives on our pets and feeds by sucking their blood. The adult flea on your pet makes up only 5% of the flea population. The remaining 95% of the population, i.e. eggs, larvae and pupae, live in the flea's environment, which means your pet's environment. And, of course, this is inevitably your house! After a good feed on Rover, it only takes 24 hours for the fleas to mate and produce tiny white eggs which drop onto the floor (i.e. your carpet, bed and sofa). After a few days, the eggs hatch into tiny maggot-like larvae which feed on dust and the droppings of adult fleas. After a while, the larva spins a cocoon in which it develops into a pupa and finally into the adult flea. In ideal conditions this cycle can be as quick as 12 days, and since one female flea can lay dozens of eggs every day, you can imagine how many fleas you will have to deal with in only a few weeks! Poor Tigger, and poor you! Hungry fleas will jump on any passing warm blooded creatures, including humans!
The secret to successful flea control is treating both your pet AND the environment with products that kill both adult and immature fleas. Only your vet will be able to give you treatment effective enough to get rid of the infestation. Usually this is via a drop on the back of the neck of your pet and a spray for your house. Non-prescription products, i.e. those you can buy in the pet shop, are rarely effective enough. Once you have rid your environment of the problem, do not stop treating your pet!
Please ask your local Medivet Team for more advice.