Why fleas are a pest
Fleas are a problem because they cause irritation and disease. They bite your dog to feed on blood and this happens so fast that partially digested blood (flea dirt) can be seen in minutes. Female fleas feed often and can consume up to ten times their weight in just 24 hours. Multiply that by 30 fleas and you'll get a really sad pet.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) is the most common skin disease of dogs and cats, caused by irritation from flea bites.
Signs of FAD include:
- Hair loss
- Skin infection
- Crusting or thickened skin
Fleas can also transmit diseases to your pet and your family. Your pet can catch the flea tapeworm from infected fleas and pass it on to other pets and humans. Cat-scratch disease is also transmitted by infected fleas and causes a skin infection in humans. So, for the comfort and safety of your dog, look for a treatment that stops fleas fast.
How can I tell my dog has fleas?:
- Adult fleas crawling through the fur
- Flea dirt or blood through the coat (take a good look around the tail region and tummy)
- Signs of scratching (including patches of hair loss or scaly skin, itchy dog)
- Licking behaviour
The secret life of fleas
Adults - only the tip of the iceberg
Despite being the most recognisable, adult fleas account for the smallest number of the flea population present during an infestation. They emerge from a cocoon when conditions are just right. To survive, they must feed immediately. Adult fleas feed and mate within 24 hours and lay eggs 36-48 hours after that, therefore fast killing is crucial.
Eggs - the most abundant
Eggs are laid in the pet's coat and drop into the environment. On average, each female adult flea lays approximately 500 eggs in her lifetime. This is why flea infestations quickly grow into a big problem.
Larvae - creepy crawlies in the environment
Newly hatched larvae live in the environment and feed on adult flea faeces (flea dirt), dead skin cells and other organic debris. The larvae spin a cocoon to form the next stage called pupae.
Pupae - the survivors
Pupae are the most resilient stage of the flea lifecycle. The cocoon is very sticky and attracts dirt and other debris, making a perfect camouflage to remain undetected in the environment for up to 12 months. This extremely resistant flea stage is one reason why ongoing treatment is important to eliminate flea infestations.
Top tips to keep your dog and home flea-free
Regular cleaning of your pet's favourite areas including bedding and carpet will also help to eliminate further flea eggs and larvae. When choosing a dog flea treatment, there are many different types of products available including dog flea product that not only treats fleas on your dog, but also treats other flea stages and your dog's surroundings. To reduce irritation and discomfort from flea bites, choose a flea treatment that kills fleas on contact and doesn't rely on fleas biting to take effect.
The types of dog flea treatment for puppies and dogs available include Advantage for dogs, Advantix for dogs, Advocate for dogs, Capstar for dogs, Comfortis for dogs, Frontline for dogs, Nexgard for dogs and Revolution for dogs.
Dog flea treatments can be categorised into 2 main parts:
Products to rid fleas on your dog
Spot on treatments - very effective, easy to apply, once a month treatments. Some products include worming or heartworm treatment as well as flea treatment. Examples of spot on treatments include Advantage, Advantix, Advocate and Revolution.
Dog Flea shampoo - kills fleas on your pet at the time of the bath, but once rinsed off have no lasting effect on fleas.
Rinses and sprays - vary in effectiveness, some need to be used weekly, some more often if severe flea problems are present. Rinses must be applied to a clean, mostly dry coat at the correct concentration to be effective.
Tablets like Capstar flea tablets will kill fleas fast within 30 minutes offering immediate relief from fleas but not treat the environment.
Collars & Powders - are helpful, but not the most effective treatment
Control the environment
Adopt control strategies including;- Vacuum the carpet 2-3 times a week to remove eggs and stimulate dormant fleas, wash pet blankets weekly (in the washing machine) and leave in the sun to dry, spray the house, kennels and yards with an adult flea killer (professional treatment recommended), fog the house to prevent larvae developing.
Fast flea facts
Fleas are small wingless insects and the most common pest that pet owners face. Their bites are painful and they are almost impossible to catch and squash. The common species of flea found on both cats and dogs is called the cat flea. Flea fossils date back to the Lower Cretaceous period, meaning fleas have been around for about 100 million years. At that time, their neighbours might have been a Tyrannosaurus Rex or Triceratops! Some fleas can jump 150 times their own length. That compares to a human jumping 300 metres. One flea broke a record with a four-foot vertical jump. Undisturbed and without a blood meal, a flea can live more than 100 days. On average, they live two to three months.
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