What is small, brown, has six legs, is one of the world’s best jumpers and causes your pets a great deal of distress? …….. Yes – the common Flea!
The flea has four stages in its life cycle – egg, larva, pupa (most resistant stage of the cycle) and adult flea. This cycle can take anything from 2 weeks to 8 months to complete – depending on temperature, humidity, space and host/food availability.
The flea can live for up to a year without feeding, but needs a blood meal to lay eggs. The female flea, once having fed on the blood of your pet, lays approximately 400 eggs in her lifetime. Some of them lodge in the fur, but a large proportion of the eggs fall off, contaminating your pet’s environment – especially where your pets sleeps & rests. (Yours too incidentally – floor cracks & also baseboards; edges of rugs & carpets and furniture and beds)
Flea infestation on your pet causes the animal to continually scratch or bite especially around the head, neck and tail areas.
The female flea has long, tube-like, piercing mouth parts to help suck blood from your pet. This feeding can cause severe itching to the point of causing red and inflamed skin (rash).
When your pet develops an allergy to the actual saliva secreted by the flea this is called Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD). These allergic reactions cause extreme irritation, hair loss, bald patches and raw areas of smelly skin (hot spots).
Fleas can also transmit the intestinal parasite: Dipylidium caninum (tapeworm). Fleas unfortunately also bite humans and so could transmit viral, bacterial and rickettsial diseases. It is thus doubly important to ensure that your animals and their environment are free of fleas. The typical human flea bite is a small, hard, raised itching spot – there is a single puncture mark in the centre of each spot. (Ants & Spiders leave 2 puncture marks and Mosquitoes, Bees, Wasps and bedbugs leave a large swelling or welt).
While it is relatively easy to control fleas, it requires a bit of effort plus a bit of time. You will be treating our home and pets for at least 6 months to get the problem under control.
The first important stage is to free your pet from these irritating creatures. The best approach is to use a topical product, usually administered onto the skin at the back of your pet’s neck or to use a suitable spray (pump or aerosol). These products are safe to use and safe for your pet.
Please note that the age, health and weight of your pet must be taken into consideration when choosing any product. Also note that some products are made for dogs only and must not be used on a cat unless so specified. Your vet will always be happy to advise you. While various dips and rinses may be used these are not deemed quite as safe for your pet.
Dips and rinses also have a shorter working/effective period, only 7-10 days. Note too that there are a number of natural remedies (lavander; tea tree oil; garlic) and other alternatives (cedar oil), but they are often not sufficiently effective and sometimes can be unsafe. For every 5 fleas found on your pet, there are 10 pupae; 35 larva and 50 eggs in the environment.
Fleas like warm humid conditions, so with the use of heaters and humidifiers through winter, this is no longer just a summer problem anymore. This is why treating your pet regularly/monthly THROUGHOUT the year with a topical product will help mop up the rest of the flea cycle in the environment as they grow through their life cycle. Once the animal has been treated it becomes imperative to treat the animal’s environment, for that is where the re-infestation begins. Since far more eggs have dropped off your pet than remain on it, the various places your pet frequents must be treated too – inside as well as outside, not forgetting the car! Begin by giving all areas (especially cracks, crevices and corners) a thorough vacuuming, making sure to empty out the vacuum bag ridding it of the fleas and eggs. Follow this up by using a fogger, a carpet spray or a carpet duster – these products are specially designed to kill off the remaining eggs and fleas. Please don’t forget to treat the kennel and any outside areas that your animal frequents. Pay special attention to your animal’s bedding, ensuring that it is washed once a week and dried in the sunlight – all flea stages like living in the dark. It is important to persist with this type of treatment for at least six months in order to ensure that the environmental fleas may be largely wiped out, after which it makes sense to keep your pet on an anti-flea programme of some sort, keeping in mind that the most important time for control (i.e. the most prolific breeding time) for fleas is spring to summer. Visiting pets to your home & garden as well as birds and other mammals carry fleas that can re-infect your pet. Should you need help with any part of the flea control programme, please do not hesitate to ask your vet for help. Remember – a healthy, flea-free pet is a happy pet.
EMERGENCY GUIDE FOR FLEA CONTROL
Immediate Short Term Control PET Frontline/FIROTEC Spray
This is sprayed onto your pet and will have a knock down effect on the fleas on your pet right now. You can also spray bedding – but leave it to dry for a bit before you let your pet sleep in it due to the alcohol smell it may have.
This also has a quick (within 20 min) knock down effect on fleas. You can place your pet in the bathroom or shower so the dead fleas and their eggs can easily be vacuumed up afterwards
Advantage, Advantix ; Ex-spot; Fiprotec; Frontline Plus; Prac-tic; Revolution; Ultrum Line- up – remember you can’t apply within three days, either side of a bath or swim or heavy rain!!
Short Term Control Environment (House, Kennel & Garden)
Get rid of your vacuum bag immediately, or place bits of flea collar or flea powder into the vacuum bag – this ensures the flea egg, larva and pupa die. Enviromental Spray or Fogger You will have to close up the house, remove all your pets (including birds and fish) and leave home for a few hours.
You can use DIY foggers (Fleago/Ultrum Duration) or have a company come in professionally and do it for you.
Long Term Control
PET Program Tablets(Dogs)
Program Suspension (Cats)
Once monthly tablets/suspension that kill any flea that bites the dog/cat – this makes the flea sterile so it can’t lay eggs and stops the flea cycle
Once Monthly application of : Advantage, Advantix ; Ex-spot; Fiprotec; Frontline Plus; Prac-tic; Revolution; Ultrum Line-up – remember you can’t apply within three days, either side of a bath or swim or heavy rain!! “Disclaimer: Please remember that these notes are to help with understanding and explaining a certain topic. If you have any concerns over the health of your pet, please consult your veterinarian immediately – Thanks”
REFERENCES: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_flea; http://www.flea.net/flea-control; http://www.fleacontrols.com/; Novartis dispensing leaflet. Co-written Mrs JE SMITH & Dr PJ Smith BVSc © VET ON WHEELS 2011.