The most common species of flea found on dogs and cats in the UK is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). In the past fleas were mainly a problem in the spring and summer time where as now with the milder winters and use of indoor heating they are active all year round.
Each female lays approximately 25-50 eggs per day on their host, which then drop off into the environment, particularly where the animal lies. The larvae hatch, crawl away from the light i.e. into the base of the carpet, and a cocoon is spun. The adult flea develops and emerges when stimulated by temperature and vibrations in the environment. The flea then looks for a host to feed on and lay its eggs upon and so the cycle begins again.
Fleas feed on blood and create itchy bumps on the pet (or you) where they have bitten. Some pets may become anaemic if they have a large number of fleas present and some are particularly sensitive to flea saliva. Self-trauma may ensue where the pet has been scratching, causing areas of sore, reddened skin. This is an uncomfortable condition; the skin has a chance of becoming infected and is unsightly.
Flea dirt (faeces) presented as dark flakes in the hair (when dampened turn red) may be noted before fleas are actually seen. Keep in mind that if you do see a flea it is not the only one! However fleas can easily be managed by treating your pet’s environment and following a strict treatment protocol for all the pets in the house.
There are many treatments on the market and most do more than just kill fleas. Most are applied in different ways in order to suit various pets and their habits.
Spot-on treatments have the ingredient placed in a plastic pipette, which is emptied onto the skin of the pet. Some need the pipette snapping and on others you need to press down the lid to pierce the seal in order to release the liquid so in each case read the manufacturer's instructions carefully. The best place to apply it is on the back of the neck so the pets are not able to lick it off themselves. It is often helpful to have someone else hold your pet still which means that you can concentrate on parting the hair and making sure the liquid is released onto the skin.
There are also sprays, which need to be applied liberally onto the hair and then rubbed down to the skin. Use gloves for this procedure and do not handle the pet until the fur is dry. Again you may need someone else to hold them still and it is often better completed in a well-ventilated room or outside.
A good example is Frontline Spray, as illustrated. Frontline Spray is available in 100ml, 250ml, and 500ml pump action bottles and a written veterinary prescription is required.
In addition it is also a good idea to treat your house for fleas, there are many household sprays on the market which continue to treat the house for a period of twelve months after the intial application.