Fleas can be a problem all year round and even in the most spotless home or on the cleanest pet. Here is how to spot signs of fleas and how to treat your pet – and your home – to keep fleas away.

Top flea facts

Fleas are a type of external parasite. There are distinct species of fleas, such as dog fleas, cat fleas, rabbit fleas and human fleas. It is possible for many species of fleas to infest on more than one host species. 

  • Fleas only suck blood from their hosts as adults. Adult fleas have mouthparts that are adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood from their host.
  • A flea can live from between 14 days to a year, and a female can lay up to fifty eggs in one day – that is 1,500 in a lifetime!
  • Some types of fleas can leap more than a hundred times their own body length.
  • It is estimated that 95 per cent of flea eggs, larvae and pupae live in the environment, not on your pet.

Signs your pet might have fleas

There are a few things you can look out for that could mean your pet has fleas:

  • Is your pet scratching?
  • Areas of hair loss, bald or sore patches?
  • Spots or scans?
  • Redness and irritation?
  • Thickened skin in areas (for example, around ear edges)?
  • Can you see tiny dark specks in its fur, or small brownie-black insects scurrying about?
  • Do you have any insect bites yourself?

If you have answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it could mean fleas. 

When treating your pets and their environment for fleas, it is essential to get rid of the parasites completely, making sure that the whole lifecycle is killed. This means destroying their eggs and larvae as well, which can help prevent re-infestation.

Here are some dos and don’ts that can help you get rid of fleas efficiently and effectively.

Five things to do when dealing with fleas:

1) Treat the pet as well as its surroundings like the house and car

If some eggs or larvae are left over anywhere in the house or outside, the problem will simply occur again and require another full round of treatment. So, ensure to vacuum the floor thoroughly and regularly, including underneath shelves, drapes, and furniture, as well as around the edges of beds and furniture. Discard the contents of the vacuum bag immediately, since the vacuum cleaner would have picked up grown fleas, eggs, and larvae.

2) Use only approved products

It is important to use the products that are recommended by an SQP or a veterinary surgeon and use monthly or three monthly depending on the product.

3) Keep your pet hygienic and wash its bedding and toys regularly

If you are already fighting fleas, treat all fabric items with a good flea treatment product after you are done washing and drying the pet’s toys, bedding, and blankets. And remember to wash at 60C not 40 if possible – this will kill any surviving fleas!

4) Treat your pet for intestinal worms as well

Get rid of both fleas and worms at the same time to keep your pet healthy. The flea has a significant role in the tapeworm’s lifecycle – so if your pet has fleas, they probably have tapeworms too!

5) Make sure to use the product correctly

This could be orally or apply on the skin. Treat your pet regularly and frequently as directed by the vet or as per the instructions on the package.

Five things NOT to do when dealing with fleas:

1) Do not use the same product for all your pets

Use products meant for cats on cats and products meant for dogs on dogs. The same principle applies to small pets like hamsters and rabbits. Some dog and rabbit products are lethal to cats; some cat and dog products are potentially fatal to rabbits; while some rabbit products are toxic to some dogs too! Use rabbit products for rabbits, cat products for cats, and dog products for dogs.

2) Do not treat the pet first and the environment later

Always treat the environment first to dispose of existing eggs, larvae and grown fleas that might infest later. Finally treat your pet to prevent it from bringing new fleas into your home.

3) Do not let your pet lick or bite the areas the product is applied on

These products are not meant for ingestion and may cause health problems if licked.

4) Do not wash off the product too soon

Follow the instructions on the product label or the directions given by the vet. Products take time to act and washing or rinsing off too soon will not remove all the fleas.

5) Do not guess the weight of the animal

It is vital to use the right size product to avoid overdosing or underdosing, which could make the fleas resistant to the product over time.

If you have any concerns about fleas or the best way to control them, please speak to your SQP or veterinary surgeon who can advise you on the best products to keep your pet healthy and happy.

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