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Fleas

Fleas can cause a lot of irritation to cats and dogs, making them itch and they also transmit tapeworms. They are also the cause of some skin problems. Cat fleas are the most common, then hedgehog fleas, with rabbit fleas next and finally dog fleas. Dog fleas are thought to account for only 1% of the flea population. The most frequently encountered flea on both cats and dogs is the cat flea. If your pet has fleas then it is best to treat both the pet and the environment. The flea is just as at home in a dirty home as a clean one, they make no distinction. They are happy to be in a centrally heated home with fitted carpets where they can breed all year round.

The life cycle of the flea:
The flea goes through four stages, egg, larva, pupa then adult flea. The adults live on the pet and the females lay their eggs here too. The eggs fall off the pets coat into the environment, carpet, furniture, anywhere the pet goes. These eggs then hatch which results in the larva stage. The larvae feed on small particles of debris, too small for the naked eye to see, things like flea dirt and tapeworm eggs. The larvae then pupate, spin a cocoon, and the adult flea starts to develop within. The pupae can survive until the conditions are favourable for them, even if this takes many months.
The fleas inside the cocoon are stimulated into hatching by warmth and vibration, which can be from the pet itself or the people in that environment, even moving furniture can be enough. Once the flea emerges it jumps back onto the pet and the cycle starts again. In the right conditions this whole process from egg to flea can take as little as 2 weeks. The adult flea does not survive for long on the pet, usually only 7 to 10 days.

Fleas can cause a lot of irritation to cats and dogs, making them itch and they also transmit tapeworms. They are also the cause of some skin problems. Cat fleas are the most common, then hedgehog fleas, with rabbit fleas next and finally dog fleas. Dog fleas are thought to account for only 1% of the flea population. The most frequently encountered flea on both cats and dogs is the cat flea. If your pet has fleas then it is best to treat both the pet and the environment. The flea is just as at home in a dirty home as a clean one, they make no distinction. They are happy to be in a centrally heated home with fitted carpets where they can breed all year round.

The most popular methods of flea control are (from left to right) flea collars, flea powders, flea shampoos, household flea sprays and powders, and flea sprays both in aerosol and pump-spray versions. Flea drops, which are generally applied to the nape of the neck instead of a collar, are also widely used.

Fleas can become quite a problem if they are left untreated. For every flea that you find on your pet there will be lots more developing in the environment. Fleas are very small and they move very quickly which makes them hard to detect. However they do seem to favour certain places on the pet, base of the tail, around the ears, neck and abdomen. You can tell if your pet has fleas by a simple method. Using a comb, gently comb through the pet's coat, and if any small pieces of foreign material shaken from the comb onto a piece of white, moist paper or tissue start to dissolve and produce a red stain then your pet has fleas. The reason the paper goes red is because the particles are flea faeces which contain a lot of ingested blood. This is a good way of finding out if you pet has fleas and you will be grooming your pet regularly anyway.

When the fleas move through the pet's coat they cause the pet to scratch or bite at the point of irritation. Pets can show various degrees of irritation to fleas, some show little or no irritation and others can develop skin problems. Some pets are allergic to flea bites and their saliva. If fleas are left untreated they can cause some severe diseases, one of which being anaemia. In untreated kittens and puppies a severe infestation of fleas can cause anaemia and even death.

Fleas will bite humans but, in general, they will move on quickly, they much prefer our pets' blood. Some people when bitten develop small red spots, these are usually found on ankles and sometimes on arms as well.

Treatment to expel fleas from your home and pet come in many various forms and your veterinary surgeon will give you the best advice for your particular situation.

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