Fleas can cause a lot of discomfort and more serious health problems.
Flea bites may go unnoticed on some pets, cause slight irritation in others and produce extensive itching, red lesions, hair loss and even ulcers or defects in the surface of the skin in those animals with flea allergy dermatitis, which is the result of extreme sensitivity to flea saliva.
Severe flea infestations can cause anaemia and even death, especially in puppies. Fleas can also transmit several diseases and parasites,such as tapeworm.
Adult fleas are wingless insects, generally smaller than a sesame seed, who feed on the blood of animals. Their proportionately enlarged back pair of legs gives them an extraordinary jumping ability. Hanging on to your pet's fur with their claws, their needle-like mouth parts bite through the skin to suck up blood. Once fleas find their host they do not generally jump off.
If one flea finds your dog or cat an attractive food source, you can be sure that other fleas will, too. They mate, with females laying 30-50 eggs per day. These eggs will drop to the ground within 8 hours and, as soon as 2 days later, flea larvae will hatch and like to hide in dark places on the ground, in carpets or upholstery.
After about a week of feeding on adult flea droppings, crumbs, flakes of skin, etc., the larvae spin cocoons to become pupae. The pupae can remain in this stage for very long periods of time and are resistant to any form of treatment.
A week or so later the adult flea develops inside the pupa and is ready to emerge when the timing is right to continue the cycle. When a dog or cat walks by the flea inside the cocoon, the vibrations from the paws on the ground and the carbon dioxide in the breath causes the adult to emerge and leap onto the cat or dog.
The cycle - which can take as little as 12 days or as long as 180 days or even more - can then begin again.
The best way to control flea problems is to prevent them from happening in the first place - prevention is better than cure! Fortunately, developments in veterinary parasite control in recent years have made the twofold goal of eliminating fleas on pets and preventing further infestations much easier to achieve.
The ideal flea treatment will control the adult population of fleas as well as the immature stages too, including eggs and larvae. Remember that the pupae are resistant to ALL flea products and can survive in the environment for a very long time, meaning that you have to perservere with treatment if you want to eliminate this environmental burden.
Available for both dogs and cats, new insecticides and insect growth regulators in easy-to-use topical or oral forms not only eliminate any existing fleas, but also work long-term to prevent future infestations. This is accomplished either by killing the parasites before they can reproduce or by preventing their eggs from developing into normal adult fleas. Consult your veterinary surgeon for advice about the proper product for your pet as these vary considerably in efficacy and the ways in which they work.
Furthermore, thorough daily vacuuming of high-traffic areas and frequent washing of your pet's bedding at hot temperatures will also go a long way in reducing the flea population in your home.
Flea treatments come in a range of formulations, these include once-a-month topical treatments, sprays, powders, dips, shampoos, collars,and oral or injectable medication. Once again, you should ask your veterinary surgeon for advice about what the most appropriate product is for your pet.
And remember, it is perfectly normal to see live fleas on a pet after a topical treatment, spray, shampoo, collar, etc. is applied. Many believe that this means the product is not working, but the fleas have to fully absorb the product before they will be affected, which may take from a few hours to a few days depending on what you use.