The pesky flea can be a major headache to the owners of cats and dogs and provide major discomfort to your animal. The flea is the most common canine/feline pest and can cause a number of ailments, including severe itching, allergies, skin infections and tapeworms.
Fleas, like cockroaches, are hardy and have adapted well for survival. As flea eggs need about 70-75% humidity to hatch and larvae need at least 50% to survive, hot humid areas will always have a higher incidence of flea infestation than dryer areas of Australia. The key to controlling the problem is by understanding the flea life cycle.
THE FLEA LIFE CYCLE!
The female flea’s lifespan is only about 50 days; however she can lay up to 1000 eggs in this time. The female lays her eggs on your pet; some of which will fall onto your carpet, your bed, your pet’s bed, the grass, gardens, between pavers or all of these areas. A couple of days after the egg is laid it will hatch into larvae, where it feeds on debris. About a week later (depending on temperature and humidity) the larvae creates a cocoon (known as pupae). The larvae can stay in the cocoon for 6 months depending on warmth, humidity and vibration e.g. foot traffic, vacuuming. (this explains why there can be flea plague as soon as the warmer months hit, especially when humidity is high). Baby fleas need blood to grow and actually prefer dog and cat blood for their development however, human blood will suffice if needed. Another important point about the female flea is that they need blood to reproduce so they are always seeking your pet’s blood as their food source. The flea can jump 100 times its own height; therefore travelling a distance is not a problem for them, laying their eggs as they go.
CHECKING YOUR PETS FOR FLEAS
You are looking for active fleas or small black/brown specks (this is flea dirt), the other signs are small white specks which are flea eggs. Frequently, evidence of fleas can be found in the following locations:
• Above the tail is a common spot for fleas in dogs.
• Around the face, especially under the chin (cats)
• On the belly, and
• Under the armpits
Sudden irritability, extended chewing or scratching, reddened skin, and hair loss are all credible signs that your pet could have fleas.
TREATING FLEA INFESTATIONS
A common misconception amongst pet owners is to only treat their pets when adult fleas are evident on the animal, however fleas usually spend most of their time in your pets surroundings (90-95% of the lifecycle), therefore it is imperative that you treat not only all the pets in the house but also the environment too. An integrated approach is imperative for the best possible results.
Vacuuming – a good vacuum cleaner should pick up a lot of the eggs, larvae and pupae, be sure to seal the bag when disposing, flea powder in the bag will give extra ammunition.
Washing – wash whatever can be washed, preferably with hot water, then a good airing.
Treat your pet – spot-ons are one of the better options eg Frontline, Advantage, Advantix (not for cats), Revolution etc. Sentinel monthly tablets also provide long term flea control.
Treat your environment – flea bomb the house, spray the yard, this may need to be repeated to eradicate the adult fleas present in your immediate environment.
The best treatment is definitely prevention. If you do have a flea problem in your house then the suggestions above will help control them. However, this article is recommended as a guide only and if you are unsure of any issues please seek professional advice.