Fleas are one of the most common parasites we see at the clinic. They are an external parasite (which means they live on the outside of the body) and are visible to the human eye. Fleas are insects but do not have wings, instead they travel by jumping. They are the superheroes of the insect world. Fleas can jump 80 times their own height which is the equivalent of a person jumping 1 ½ football fields!


Why Do Fleas Cause problems?


Fleas can transmit infections and other parasites through their bite (or sometimes when our pets ingest them). Most commonly fleas transmit tapeworm which is a worm which can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and weight loss. The worm segments can be seen in the faeces.


The bite of the flea itself can cause localized reaction (redness and itching), some animals are also allergic which can cause more severe reactions to even a single bite. Often the vet will notice hair loss around the tail and back as well as scratching and biting at this area.


Treating Fleas Can Be Tricky


When we notice adult fleas on our pets we need to begin treatment as soon as possible. The adult fleas on the pet comprises 5-10% of the flea population in our houses. That is because the eggs the flea lays can last for up to 6 months in the environment. For this reason treatment needs to continue for a full 6 months. The flea eggs can be found anywhere the animals goes, they tend to be found in bedding, in the crevices of floor boards or deep in carpets. They are triggered to hatch by warmth and vibrations, such as a dog walking over the area, but also by a vacuum cleaner! Regular vacuuming and washing of the bedding will help to rid the household of fleas as well as treating all animals that your pets come into contact with, not just the one that is showing symptoms or you have seen fleas on!


Prevention is the Best Treatment


Prevention of fleas is the easiest way to prevent a flea infestation as they can be super tricky to get rid of once a large burden of fleas is in the house. There are many products on the market for treatment of fleas and they are generally over the counter so can be purchased without having a visit with a vet. We generally recommend flea treatments that are oral (tablets or chews) or spot on over collars, shampoos and powders. There are many options out there depending on what suits your family best, with some treatments being monthly, others 3 monthly and also 6 monthly products available. Some products come in combination with treating other parasites such as worms or ticks. Please come into the clinic and speak to our knowledgeable nurses to find a product that is right for you! For a more serious flea outbreak or if your dog is scratching or experiencing hair loss a visit with a vet will put them at ease as some additional medications may be required to help them feel better.