Fleas on the rise
Ask the vet
Esther Van Luipen
The climate is changing. We all need to get used to this. One of the consequences of this is more creepy crawlies that love the warm moist weather. One of them is the flea. Fleas absolutely love the heat. Years ago, cold winters would kill a lot of the flea population, but nowadays our winters are so mild that they thrive all year around.
It would be a big mistake to think that fleas are just a nuisance that cause a bit of itch to your dog, cat, rabbit or ferret. Fleas carry diseases. Although rats got the blame for spreading the plague a few hundred years ago, their fleas were the real culprit.
There are many reasons why it is important to regularly treat your pet for fleas. When a flea bites your pet can get allergic dermatitis, an allergic reaction from the saliva of the flea that can make it itch for days.
Worse again, it can cause flea anaemia. The flea takes a blood meal from your pet, and the more fleas your pet has, the more blood your pet loses. This can become a problem when there is a big flea infestation. It can actually kill puppies, kittens and elderly, debilitated animals.
Fleas also carry tapeworm eggs. When your pet grooms itself and eats a flea, it can get infected with tapeworms.
Flea bites also leave Cats susceptible to Feline Infectious Anaemia and Bartonella (cat scratch fever).
Here are a few myths about fleas that I hear every day, and my responses.
‘My pet can’t have fleas because he lives entirely indoors’. Fleas actually thrive most in temperatures between 18 and 25 degrees. This makes the home environment the best ever for fleas.
‘We have only hard wooden floors so we can’t have fleas’. Carpet is a super environment for flea pupae and it is very hard to clean properly, but the cracks between the floor boards and behind skirting boards are also favourite places for fleas to lay their eggs and develop into fleas.
‘My pet doesn’t have fleas because I cannot see them’. Pets are very good at licking them away. Sometimes the only thing that is visible is the allergic skin reaction as a result of the flea bites.
When treating your pet for flees, it’s a good idea to change products now and then. Also, make sure that the flea products that you use are superior flea killing products. Don’t forget that most flea products work only for 4 weeks. The only flea product that works for 3 months is the newly available bravecto (also covers ticks). If your pet is a regular swimmer it is better to give a flea product in tablet form (like bravecto or comfortis), because pour-ons can be washed off. It is also important to treat against fleas in the winter. This is the time that flea populations are generally at their lowest, and it is the easiest way to get rid of them entirely.
Fleas don’t like humans as much as our pets, so they don’t often jump on us. Still, it is not nice if they do. Imagine how your pet feels about it.
Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. She can be contacted at 094 9373955 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.