How to deal with the itchy problem of fleas

Flea infestations of pets and the home environment are a common occurrence.

With the advent of double glazing and central heating, fleas have become an all year round problem.

Fleas are both a common cause of skin disease and a vector for disease.

An allergy to flea saliva is a very common problem in cats.

In addition fleas will use humans as an alternative host when there are a large number, or when an animal leaves the infested house for a prolonged period.

Adult fleas lay eggs in the haircoat of your pet approximately 24 to 36 hours after a blood meal.

These eggs then fall off the animal into the environment.

Provided the temperature and humidity are adequate, the eggs then hatch into larvae.

The environment is generally favourable for development and the larvae soon form pupae.

This is the best protected stage of the life cycle and thus can remain dormant in the environment for many months.

Whilst it is the adult fleas feeding on your pet that presents the initial problem, a large proportion of the flea population is found in the environment.

Any adult fleas killed on an animal will be quickly replaced by this environmental reservoir.

Therefore an effective flea control programme should eliminate the fleas from your pets and prevent re-infestation.

There are a wide range of flea treatments on the market. Those that eliminate fleas from your pets include spot-ons, tablets, injections and sprays.

In addition to these treatments it is important that the environment is also treated. This may involve a combination of mechanical methods, such as hoovering and washing bedding, as well as household sprays.

Ultimately each animal should be treated as an individual and there may be different risk factors in every household, therefore for further advice you should contact your vet.

By CHARLOTTE HEWITT

DEDMAN, Vet