Fleas are a nightmare. Once they take control of a home they can be very difficult to get rid of. A single flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day, that’s an incredible 1500 eggs a month. In fact statistics suggest that for every flea you see there could be as many as 99 more lurking in your home.
While not quite such prolific breeders, ticks are still very unpleasant little parasites. Latching on to your cats and dogs to feed on their blood before falling off and waiting for their next victim.
Carrying disease and parasites, fleas and ticks have a negative effect of the health and wellbeing of your pet and are not welcome in a home.
Why flea your pet
If the thought of swarms of blood sucking parasites isn’t enough to make you want to flea your pet, there are a few more serious problems caused by fleas and ticks.
The itchiness from the biting and scurrying can cause a pet an enormous amount of distress and can develop into an allergy causing further effects on an animals health.
Fleas and ticks are capable of carrying a range of diseases and parasites that will be damaging to your pets health, such as Mixamatosis in rabbits, Lyme disease, as well as worms that can affect all animals, as well as diseases that can be passed to humans.
A large enough infestation can even lead to fatal anaemia.
How to spot fleas and ticks
Sometimes discovering a pet has fleas can be as simple as seeing one scurrying through a pet’s fur, however this might not be the best way to tell if your pets is suffering as scurrying fleas are often scratched away before you can see them.
Better to look for excessive grooming, chewing, scratching and biting all of which are good indicators of fleas and ticks. It can sometimes, although not always, be possible to see small pink bite marks on the skin and more extreme reactions can lead to hair loss and sores.
Possibly the best way of telling if your pet has fleas is to give them a good fuss. If you find sandy black specs in the coat that can be crushed into red stains then your pet has fleas. Although sometimes mistaken for eggs, these small black specs are actually flea faeces.
Ticks come in a range of sizes and colours. The size of a tick can vary between a pin head and fingernail, they can range in colour from dark green to pale cream, but generally a tick will appear like a small rounded pebble attached to the pets skin.
The Life of a flea
Different flea treatments and prevention products work on different stages of a fleas life. Therefore in order to prevent and treat a pet for fleas it is important to understand the life cycle of a flea.
There are four stages to a fleas life; egg, lava, pupa and adult
As well as existing on your pet, eggs can be scattered anywhere and everywhere. To make matters worse at just 0.5mm in size and white or even transparent, eggs can be very difficult to spot. Eggs simply fall off a pet as they scratch, and develop happily in your garden, carpet, sofa, bed, where ever a pet spends time there could potentially be eggs.
The eggs then hatch into larvae, tiny worm like creatures that can live on the organic matter they find where they hatch. Shed skin, dead insects and even the faeces of adult fleas, which is rich in blood can sustain the development of a flea.
After moulting twice and growing in size the larvae enters the pupal stage. During this stage the larvae weaves its self a cocoon, moults one final time and undergoes a metamorphosis into its adult form. Fleas are extremely resilient during this stage, which can take as little as four days, however fleas are capable of surviving for long period of time in the pupal stage if the environmental conditions are not good for survival. Warmth, noise and an increase in carbon dioxide can all indicate a host is near. A newly emerged adult flea is able to jump almost immediately.
The time all this takes depends on environmental factors such as availability of a host, temperature and humidity. Under the right conditions this process can take just fourteen days
Once a flea is a fully mature adult flea will live for several weeks on a pet, during this time it will live to feed and breed
Understanding a fleas life cycle helps show that a spot of topical treatment when a pet owner notices a few fleas on an animal probably won’t be enough to address the problem. A regular and multi-pronged attack is necessary to keep on top of the problem.
Acting quickly to treat or prevent flea and tick infestations is very important to your pets health. Flea and tick treatments for animals come in three main types.
Spot on – Topical flea and tick treatments typically come in the form of a liquid applied directly to the skin. Spot on treatments kill adult fleas, larvae and eggs and typically last about thirty days.
Oral – typically in pill form, oral treatments can be very effective. Travelling through the blood stream oral treatments kill adult ticks, fleas and larvae when the bite the animal.
Collars – Flea collars are designed to repel fleas and typically last for several months.
If prevention fails and you find a tick on a cat or dog there are a couple of things to bear in mind when attempting to remove it. First of all don’t just leave it to your pet, deal with it yourself.
Don’t try to brush it off or pick it with your fingers as this can cause the ticks probe to break increasing the chance of infection by diseases such as Lyme.
Don’t use chemicals, alcohol or even try to burn the tick off as this can cause irritation and damage to your pets skin.
The best way to remove ticks is with a tick twister, a tool used by vets specially designed for the job. Failing that, a pet owner can use tweezers, grabbing the tick gently as close to your pets body and gently levering the tick out of the skin.
As we’ve seen simply treating your pets may not be enough. One of the most effective way to control fleas is to keep things clan! Make sure to wash a dogs favourite blanket of a cats favourite cushion. When hoovering, don’t stop at the floor, make sure sofas and upholstery gets a good going over as well. Good, thorough cleaning practices will help control the fleas that survive other treatments.