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Half Pet Owners Do Not Recognise Flea Problems

24 March 2015

ANALYSIS - Nearly half of pet owners do not realise that their dog or cat has fleas, where nearly one in 10 dogs and one in five cats have fleas at any one time.

Speaking at the recent PATS Show at Sandown, Merial Animal Health Business development manager, Stephen Stowe, said that owners need to be aware of the potential problems that fleas can cause and they need to understand the life cycle of the flea to be able to treat their pets properly.

The problems that can be caused range from irritation from flea bites causing distress and trauma to flea allergy dermatitis, disease transmission and anaemia, weakness and even death for young animals through the loss of blood.

Mr Stowe said that in cases of flea allergy dermatitis, where the pet is allergic to the flea saliva or faeces, the irritation can cause bald inflamed patches caused by excessive scratching and even after treatment the animals might have to be referred to a vet.

He said that a test to see whether pets have fleas is a wet paper test where the fur is ruffled and any small bits of dried blood will form a red halo when caught on a piece of wet paper.

In the life cycle of the flea, the flea starts feeding and mates about 30 minutes after jumping onto the pet. It will then lay is eggs on the pets and when these are shed they hatch into the larvae.

The larvae are photophobic and seek dark areas in the house – the carpet or between floorboards and eventually they will spin cocoons and develop into pupae.

The pupae can take between one month and a year to hatch and then the cycle starts again.

Mr Stowe said that one of the main problems that pet owners have with fleas is not understanding that because the fleas might have been killed on the animal and the animal is free from the pest that the problem has not necessarily disappeared.

“Ninety five per cent of the problem is in the home environment,” he said.

He added that owners think the problem has vanished but because the pupae can take so long to hatch out a problem or even an infestation might not appear until the central heating in the house is turned on in the autumn encouraging the pupae to hatch.

Mr Stowe said: “You have to make sure the animal is properly treated.

“They need to be treated within 24 hours, because that is when they will start laying eggs.”

He said that dogs need to be treated every two months and cats every five weeks.

“Every dog and cat is vulnerable,” Mr Stowe added.

Using a regime of prevention through treating the pets regularly and also making sure that every pet in the household is treated will help to keep on top of the problem.

Vacuuming and regularly washing pets bedding above 60 degrees to remove eggs, larvae and pupae and using an environmental spray to kill eggs and larvae hidden in the home will all help.

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

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