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Flea bites may go unnoticed on some pets, cause slight irritation in others and produce extensive itching, red lesions, hair loss and even ulcers in those animals with flea allergy dermatitis, which is the result of extreme sensitivity to flea saliva.
Severe flea infestations can cause anaemia, especially in puppies and kittens. Fleas can transmit several diseases, as well as tapeworm.
Adult fleas are wingless insects, generally smaller than a sesame seed, who feed on the blood of animals. Their proportionately enlarged back pair of legs gives them an extraordinary jumping ability. Hanging on to your pet's fur with their claws, their needle-like mouth parts bite through the skin to suck up blood.
If one flea finds your dog or cat an attractive food source, you can be sure that other fleas will, too. They mate, with females laying 30-50 eggs per day. These eggs will drop to the ground within 8 hours and, as soon as 2 days later, flea larvae will hatch and hide in dark places on the ground, in carpets or upholstery. After about a week of feeding on adult flea droppings, crumbs, flakes of skin, etc., the larvae spin cocoons to become pupae. The pupae can remain in this stage for very long periods of time. The cycle continues when, as soon as a week or so later, the pupae develop into adult fleas and emerge from their cocoons when they sense that a dog or cat, or other animal host, is near. The cycle - which can take as little as 12 days or as long as 180 days - can then begin again.
The best way to control flea problems is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Fortunately, developments in veterinary parasite control in recent years have made the twofold goal of eliminating fleas on pets and preventing further infestations much easier to achieve. Available for both dogs and cats, new insecticides and insect growth regulators in easy-to-use topical not only eliminate any existing fleas, but also work long-term to prevent future infestations. This is accomplished either by killing the parasites before they can reproduce or by preventing their eggs from developing into normal adult fleas. Consult Springlands Veterinary Centre for advice about the proper product for your pet. Furthermore, thorough daily vacuuming of high-traffic areas and frequent washing of your pet's bedding will also go a long way in reducing the flea population in your home.
If, despite your best efforts at control, you find that fleas have crawled (or jumped) on to your pet, you will have to use a product that will kill and/or repel the parasites. These include once-a-month topical treatments and sprays. Once again, you should ask Springlands Veterinary Centre for advice about what the most appropriate product for your pet is. And remember, it is perfectly normal to see live fleas on a pet immediately after a topical treatment, spray, shampoo, collar, etc. is applied. Many believe that this means the product is not working, but the fleas or ticks have to fully absorb the product before they will be affected, which may take from a few hours to a few days.
Worldwide, there are about 3,000 different types of fleas, but the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is the most common to be found on cats and dogs.
Adult fleas can jump 600 times an hour. Each jump, in terms of the flea's size, is the equivalent of a person clearing a 50-storey building.
The record jump for a flea (usually 2-8 mm long) is 33 cm.
In just 30 days, 25 adult female fleas can multiply to 250,000 fleas.