Fleas are a very common problem, and can cause many forms of disease such as worminfection and allergies. Many people don’t know that their pet might be suffering from a flea infection. Below you can read what signs to look for, and what you can do if your pet has fleas.
Who can be infected with fleas?
Manly dogs and cats get flea infections, but also rabbits and rats may carry fleas. All pets with a hair coat can have fleas in their coat, but fleas have preferences. The prefer foxes, hedgehogs en squirrels, but if there is no other animal around even humans can be bitten by fleas, and cause mainly itchiness.
How do you get a flea infection?
This is relatively simple. A dog may meet another flea infected dog in the park, or a cat. Fleas are able to jump over a meter in distance to a new hoste. It is also possible to carry flea larvae or eggs into the house one your shoes. (re) Infection from fleas on favourite toys and blankets in the house are also very important.
How do I tell my pet has fleas?
The fleas themselves live on your pet, the eggs larvae and cocoons live in the surroundings, in your house! Fleas live on your pet to attain blood as source of food, and to lay eggs. The search of a suitable feeding sight does not have to take longer than 15 minutes, the meal itself only lasts for abour 15 seconds. The best way to find out if your pet is infected by fleas is to use a fine flea combe. With this comb you will either find flea stool, these are small brown/black grains, many people think these are flea eggs. If you rub these brown grains on a white piece of paper with some water the paper will turn red, this is due to the undigested blood that is in the stool, and proof that these brown grains are actually flea stool and not mud from the yard. The other thing you might find whilst combing are actual fleas! Keep a small bowl of soapy water ready so you can drown them.
Life cycle of the flea.
A flea lives on your pet to feed and to produce eggs. It feeds of blood, that it sucks from small veins in the skin. To prevent the blood from clotting the flea spits saliva into the skin. This saliva is the “bad guy” it causes itchiness!
Without a blood meal a flea only lives for a few days. The male and female fleas mate and already after 1 day the female will start to lay eggs. Before starting to lay eggs a female must consume a blood meal. A single female flea can lay anywhere up to 50-100 eggs per day!!! The flea eggs are white, very small and have a smooth surface, they fall from your pet on the floor.
After a few days a larvae will hatch from the eggs. These larvae hide in nooks and crannies, their they grow by eating flea stool and skin flakes. After five moults the larvae spins a cocoon. in this cocoon the larvae turns into a flea. In this cocoon the flea can survive up to half a year. The flea comes out of the cocoon because of vibrations as soon as the new flea is out of the cocoon it will search for a new host and blood meal.
In favourable circumstances the whole life cycle only takes 10 days, but it may also take anywhere up to 18 months. Favourable circumstances are a moist and warm environment. Especially in the summer we tend to see more flea infections, but in the winter we turn on the heating and this also creates a good environment for fleas. And fleas can reproduce at temperatures above 10 degrees Celsius.
What damage do fleas cause?
A flea causes itchiness, a single flea bite itches for several days. If the itchiness lasts for some time, your pet will bite and scratch at its skin, and this may cause hair loss and irritated skin, small crusts and even wounds. In cats they may also cause hairball formation, because your cat is overgroming due to the fleas and therefore ingesting more hair than usual.
Some pets have “Flea-allergy “. These pets may have 6 weeks of itchiness after a single flea bite. This may prevented well by using good flea control medication.
The flea may spread other disease like the tapeworm. The tapeworm lives in the intestine of a pet, en lets go of small segments of its body. These segments come out of the body through the anus and fall down onto the floor or stick to the coat. At this point they might still move a little, but in time they dry out and look like small rice grains. These segments contain many tapeworm eggs. Flea larvae eat these segments. The tapeworm eggs develop into larvae in the muscle tissue of the flea larvae. The flea larvae grows and turns into a flea, who still carries the tapeworm larvae with it. The bites a cat or dog, who starts to scratch at the bite site, and ingests the flea. In the dog or cat the tapeworm larvae develops into an adult tapeworm. The lifecycle is now completed, the new tapeworm is going to start producing new segments with eggs. A pet can be infected with many tapeworms, and 1 tapeworm may have a body length of 10-70cm.
Flea, what do I do now?
If you or the veterinarian has found a flea infection on your pet it is wise to do something about it. Not just to wear off the fleas, but also the potential tapeworm infection.
We are happy to provide you with all the information you need at the clinic, you can contact us by phone or ask our nurses at the front desk for advice.