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Do them a favour and follow our advice to keep them flea free
Our guide to treating fleas will answer the most common flea-related questions and help rid your pet and household of fleas in no time.
What are fleas?
Fleas are blood-sucking external parasites that can cause extreme itching, allergic reactions and, in severe cases, anaemia in your pets. Nasty, hey? Fleas have historically been more of a problem during the summer months, however with central heating and improved insulation in our homes, fleas are now common throughout the year.
How do cats and dogs catch fleas?
Cats and dogs can catch fleas from environments that are already infested or from other animals. Newly hatched fleas leap onto passers-by when they sense warmth, carbon dioxide and vibrations. Once they're on your pet, they feed on its blood and within twenty-four hours start to lay eggs - as many as two hundred a day.
As your pet is carrying the eggs around, they fall off onto carpets, sofas, bedding and so on and after two to three weeks the eggs hatch and the cycle begins again. This is how flea populations expand so rapidly. Remember that you might not always be able to see fleas, even in a heavy infestation, as over 95% of their lifecycle is spent in your house or garden, and therefore not on your pet. This is why it's so important to treat your house as well as your pet.
How can I prevent fleas?
Regular preventative treatment is the best way to keep fleas at bay. If you wait until you see fleas on your pet, there may already be thousands of eggs in the carpets, soft furnishings and crevices around your home. Products such as Frontline Spot On for dogs can be used regularly to prevent flea infestations. You should also ensure that your home and soft furnishings are regularly vacuumed, that the vacuum bag is emptied after each use and that pet bedding is washed regularly at 60 degrees or above.
What are the signs my pet has fleas?
It's not always immediately obvious if your pet has fleas so keep an eye out for the following:1
Fleas in your pet's coat2
Little dark coloured specks in their fur or in the comb after grooming - this could be flea droppings3
Itching and scratching4
Flea bites on you or other family members
How do I check for fleas?
Checking your pets for fleas is a relatively simple affair. If you've noticed any of the signs above then firstly, get a specially designed flea comb and run it through your pet's coat to brush out any fleas or flea eggs. If you can't see any fleas, the next step is to check your pet for flea droppings:1
Sit them on a piece of white paper and rub their coat vigorously.2
Remove any hair from the paper and brush whatever's left onto some damp cotton wool.3
If any dark colour specks turn red on the cotton wool, these are flea droppings that contain blood from your pet, therefore you should treat them as soon as possible.
What's the best way to get rid of fleas?
If you think you have a flea problem then an integrated approach to flea control is best. This involves treating all the cats and dogs in your home, whether you think they all have fleas or not, and using an anti-flea spray to kill any eggs in your home. Flea treatments for your pets can be topical - referred to as spot-ons, or take the form of tablets, liquids, and injections. Consult your vet if you're not sure which product is right for your pet. If your pets do have fleas, make sure their worming is also up-to-date as fleas carry the intermediate form of tapeworms.