How to prevent your pet from getting fleas

How to prevent your pet from getting fleas

It's likely that your dog or cat will catch fleas at some point in their lifetime. Making flea treatment a regular part of your pet care routine will give you a much better chance of preventing them and the associated discomfort for your pet.

What are fleas?

Fleas are the most common parasite your pet can come up against. Cat fleas and dog fleas are, as their names suggest, two different species - though they don't discriminate between who they infect. Your dog could have cat fleas and visa versa. 

Fleas can be caught from another dog or cat, the garden, or your home. They can even latch on to our clothes and shoes, meaning that we can inadvertently transmit them too. The athletic little blighters that they are, some types of flea can also leap more than 100 times their body length.

Making the even more tricky to avoid, fleas can live for between 14 days and a year, with a female having the ability to lay up to 50 eggs a day and a staggering 1,500 in her lifetime!

These eggs hatch into minuscule larvae, which burrow into upholstery, carpets and often your cat or dog's bedding. Here, they stay sedentary in the pupae stage for months until they sense vibration and warmth. They then rear their rather ugly heads as adult fleas and jump onto a passing 'host' - your pet.

Strangely, it's estimated that 95% of flea eggs, larvae and pupae live in the environment rather than on your pet. Fleas are blood feeders and the female flea needs a blood meal to reproduce which is why they will be found on your pet!

How do fleas affect our cats and dogs?

In the first instance, fleas are very uncomfortable to have on your pet's body. The giveaway that your dog or cat has fleas is, unsurprisingly, persistent scratching. If your pet has a flea allergy, they may also have sores and scabs on their skin. Itching - and sometimes excessive grooming too - can cause bald patches on your pet's coat so any changes should be monitored and treated quickly.

In the most serious of cases, a substantial infestation of fleas can become a medical emergency in a kitten or puppy (or any young or frail animal) if the loss of blood leads to anaemia. Fleas can also carry diseases and pass them on to your pet.

Additionally, flea larvae can become infected with tapeworm eggs. If your dog or cat eats an infected flea, it can become host to tapeworms ¿ another parasite. If your pet has fleas you should also make sure your pet is treated for worms.

How to prevent fleas: the ongoing battle

Remember, it's not uncommon for a dog or cat to have fleas at one point in their lifetime although it's horrible having to watch her or him in discomfort. The good news, however, is there are easy measures you can take to prevent your pet from catching fleas often.

Provide regular and continued treatment

Fleas thrive in summer due to the higher humidity and temperatures but seeing as we like our homes nice and cosy in the colder months too, you will need to de-flea all year round.

Keeping to a continued flea protection regime throughout your pet's life is by far the best way to prevent them from getting fleas. Please speak to your vet to discuss suitable and ongoing options for your pet.

Regularly groom your pets

Getting into a regular grooming routine will help you spot fleas (or the telltale black specks of flea dirt in their fur). Grooming is also a wonderful way to build a bond between you and your pet.

It's not just for dogs either - brushing your cat, especially if he/she has long hair, can also prevent matting and improve their circulation. Grooming in itself won't get rid of fleas but may help you identify the problem and seek treatment before they develop further.

Remember to flea-treat your home!

Fleas and their larvae can survive in your home, without a host, for many months. Preventative measures include hoovering and washing your pets bedding often. If you do suspect fleas, it's very important to treat your home too. Your vet will be able to advise on the best products for you - taking into consideration the animals that you have in your care.

It's also important to speak to your vet to check that your pet is covered for other parasites that may be lurking in your local area.

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