By Dr Ian Wright, BVMS, MSc, MRCVS (a really important and knowledgeable scientific expert on fleas – check out all those letters after his name!)
Should I treat my pet for fleas & ticks every month?
To help keep their pets and their families safe from parasitic diseases, millions of cat and dog owners across the UK use routine, preventative treatments.
These treatments are vital.
They help keep both pets and owners alike safe from a range of parasites lurking inside and outside the body, such as fleas, ticks and worms.
Where do flea infestations come from?
Almost all fleas found on UK pets are cat fleas, but they can infest:
- and rabbits.
UK fleas live very differently from parasitic mites and lice, which spend almost their whole lives on the body of their host.
Most of the common UK flea’s life is spent living away from the pet.
Fully-grown adult fleas on your pet only make up about 5% of the total flea population in your house. The other 95% is made up of eggs, larvae and pupae in carpets, bedding, furniture and cars.
Larvae hatching from eggs which have fallen off the pet live on flea faeces (‘flea dirt’), which also falls off your pet’s coat.
The larvae develop into pupae, from which newly formed adult fleas emerge, triggered by the heat and movement of an unsuspecting, passing host.
Can people catch fleas?
People cannot act as hosts for cat fleas, but they can get bitten and develop itchy bite reactions.
Flea bites can transmit disease to both pets and owners, such as feline infectious anaemia and Rikettsia felis.
The cause of ‘cat scratch disease’ (Bartonella Henselae) can also be transmitted to people through flea dirt accidentally being rubbed into the skin.
This can lead to chronic illness, and can be fatal in keeping the immune suppressed.
This is why preventing flea infestations in the home is vital: to keep pets and humans safe from these nasty diseases.
How do I get control of an existing flea infestation?
Getting on top of an existing flea infestation is a lengthy process, as the pupae are nearly impossible to kill.
Daily vacuuming and regular washing of your’s and your pet’s bedding, your sofa, carpets and car will help to speed up the process.
In severe cases, the use of a household flea spray containing insecticides and growth regulators may also be necessary.
The most important step, however, is to treat all the pets in the house that might act as hosts with a product that will kill fleas before they lay eggs.
If monthly treatment lapses, fleas can start laying eggs again and infestations can re-establish. This is why it’s so important to treat all cats and dogs routinely with an effective product to prevent infestation.
About Dr Ian Wright, BVMS, MSc, MRCVS
Ian Wright is Head of ESCCAP UK & Ireland (European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites) and is a practicing veterinary surgeon. He has a master’s degree in veterinary parasitology and is an editorial board member for the Companion Animal Journel. He continues to carry out research in practice, including work on intestinal nematodes and tick-borne diseases.
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