Pet Care Advice 》 Fleas: How to protect your pet

What are fleas?

Fleas are wingless insects which feed off your pet’s blood. They are very common, dark brown and about the size of a pinhead, and can sometimes be seen crawling on your dog or cats’ fur, although you may not always see them.

You may also come across dark flecks called “flea dirt”, which are actually flea faeces, made up of the digested blood.

The best way to find flea dirt is to brush your pet’s fur with a fine-tooth comb and allow the flecks to fall on to a sheet of damp paper. Flea dirt will partially dissolve and turn reddish.

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How do I know if my pet has fleas?

Fleas normally make your pet itch, so it’s normally easy to spot. However, you may not see any changes to their skin or coat.

Rashes consisting of fine papules (raised spots) covered by a reddish-brown crust can affect animals that are hypersensitive to flea saliva.

Commonly, these rashes are found on the back (dogs and cats) and neck (cats). The itching can be severe, resulting in hair loss, inflammation, thickened skin and secondary skin infections. This is because of the itching, rather than the rash itself.

Can humans get fleas?

It’s possible for humans to bitten by fleas, although it’s much less common than in animals, because we have very little body hair and fleas prefer to stay in dark, warm, and moist environments. If you are concerned, you should contact your doctor.

How are fleas treated?

In order to treat your pet for fleas, you need to treat both the pet and any other animals they have come into contact with.

There are a variety of flea control products available today. Generally, prescription options are more effective than pet shop and supermarket options.

For example, tablets can be given to flea-allergic animals where immediate relief is necessary. These take effect within 30 minutes but only last for 24 hours.

For longer term control, options include:

  • Monthly topical treatments which can be applied to the back of the neck
  • 3-monthly tablets
  • 6-monthly injections
  • Collars which last 7-8 months

Some of these products also prevent ticks or intestinal worms. Our veterinarians can advise you on which option is the best for your pet.

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Ensure your home is also treated

95% of the flea lifecycle is spent off the host, in the environment. This means the environment must be treated to prevent re-infestation.

Flea eggs and larvae accumulate where animals spend most of their time (e.g. beds, blankets, armchairs, carpets, favourite spots in the yard), and in places where cats land after jumping (e.g. next to the sofa).

How to get rid of fleas in your home

Anti-flea sprays are available commercially, although if you have a serious infestation problem, then we recommend consulting a professional exterminator.

  1. Wash all bedding, sofa covers and cushion covers
  2. Vacuum floors and carpets thoroughly, especially beside or under furniture, and discard the vacuum bag outside in a bin
  3. Continue to wash bedding and vacuum floors regularly to ensure all areas are fully treated