How to Protect Your Pet from Fleas?

Cat Fleas

What are fleas?

Fleas are small, parasitic insects that feed on blood from mammals and birds. Adult fleas typically feed several times a day, through biting their host. There are over 2000 flea species globally, however the one that is most commonly found on our furry loved ones is the Ctenocephalides Felis, also known as the cat flea. They are just a few millimeters long, wingless and a brown or reddish color. While they are flightless, their back legs are designed for jumping. They are able to jump up to 30cm high, which means they can jump up from the ground onto your pet with ease.

Are fleas a serious concern?

Fleas are often considered just a nasty nuisance, but they can pose serious health risks to your pet. Since fleas feed multiple times a day, your pet experiences multiple painful, itchy, and uncomfortable bites daily. Persistent itching can lead to skin infections and hair loss. Additionally, some animals can develop flea allergy dermatitis if they become allergic to fleas. Severe and persistent flea infestations can result in significant blood loss, leading to anemia. Heavy flea infestations can be lethal, especially for smaller or younger animals. Fleas can also carry infections and other parasitic entities that can infect your pet. For example, fleas may carry Bartonella bacteria, which can cause fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes. They can also carry a form of intestinal tapeworms known as Dipylidium caninum, which absorbs nutrients from your pet’s digestive system.

Where are fleas commonly found?

Fleas are most active in early August to early October, but can be active year round. They thrive in well-regulated, indoor temperatures, and if one flea enters your home, it can likely lead to an entire infestation. So even if your pet lives strictly indoors, there is still a risk they can develop a flea infestation. The cat fleas will rarely bite humans, so you may not know you have a flea infestation unless you check your pets.

How can I tell if my pet has fleas?

To assess your pet for fleas, start by examining them for “flea dirt,” which appears as black particles the size of ground pepper. This is the easiest sign of a flea infestation to detect, as fleas themselves are often harder to see. But how can you confirm if it is indeed flea dirt?. The most reliable method is to rub or comb the dirt from your pet onto a white damp piece of paper. If the debris turns red or rust-colored, it is likely flea dirt. This color change occurs because flea dirt is actually flea waste material containing residual blood ingested from your pet, which turns red when wet. Other obvious signs of a flea infestation include irritated, itchy skin.

Do fleas only stay on their host?

If your pet has fleas, unfortunately, it is likely that there are fleas inside your home as well. Since fleas are adept travelers, they often exist without a host indoors and can infect your pet after treatment or spread to other animals in the home if the house is not adequately treated. Vacuuming is essential for eliminating fleas, but you may also need to consider treating your home with insecticide. Ensure that when you vacuum for a flea infestation, the vacuum bag is promptly discarded to prevent fleas from escaping and re-infesting the home. To treat your pet for fleas, you will need to bring them to your veterinarian for proper treatment. Even if only one pet shows signs of fleas, all pets in the home should receive treatment, as fleas can go undetected for extended periods and tend to spread quickly.

How can I protect my pet against fleas?

Prevention is the best approach to take when it comes to protecting your furry loved ones from fleas. Prevention can come in many forms, and can be available in pet stores or through your veterinarian. Although there are some good treatments available through pet stores, not all are effective, therefore consult with  your veterinarian in regard to flea control medications.