Fleas feed on the blood of dogs and cats. Flea bites are irritating causing dogs and cats to scratch, lick and chew their skin. Some pets develop an allergy to flea bites and will scratch continuously and lose fur in patches around the rump. Some pets barely react at all. Fleas also transmit a type of tapeworm called Dipylidium.
Fleas are often hard to see with the naked eye as they are so small and move fast, jumping away quicking before they are spotted. The best way to check for fleas is to look for flea faeces (poo) by running a “flea comb” through your pet’s fur and placing any specks of black “dirt” on a piece of lightly moistened white tissue. Flea faeces will stain the tissue with a ring of blood. Finding flea “dirt” is just the tip of the iceberg as only 5% of the flea life cycle occurs on your pet. One flea can turn into thousands within a month.
Fleas spread by simply jumping onto a dog or cat as they walk past. Fleas are able to jump more than 200 times their body length. Fleas are so smart that they do not emerge from their cocoons until they detect the vibrations caused by humans or animals moving nearby.
Fleas grow best in Canberra inside a centrally heated warm moist home during winter and outside during spring.
Flea prevention works best when the fleas’ food source (dogs and cats) are medicated either with a tablet or a monthly spot on treatment year round. Modern flea treatments are incredibly safe. Fleas must drink blood to breed so treating our pets is the only way to break the flea’s life cycle. For this reason all dogs and cats in a household need to be treated for effective control.
Environmental controls include regular vacuuming, washing pet bedding in hot water and reducing access to under house areas as fleas like breeding in dark, warm soil.