Welcoming Spring into your house - not ticks and fleas

Posted on 09/12/2016 - 11:25 by Kara

Here comes Summer...and fleas! Both pets and their humans will soon start to feel the itch. Did you know that 95% of the flea population lives in the environment (your home/garden) as flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. Only 5% live as adult fleas on your pet so that's why it's so important to treat your pet's environment too - consider using Ultrum Duration or Baythroid (http://www.vetsmart.co.za/category/insecticides-repellents-2) as these are effective immediately and have a long-lasting action. Flea eggs can lie dormant in nooks and crannies for long periods of time until a change in temperature spurs them to life for example the start of Summer or the use of central heating in Autumn.


Flea Facts

  • Fleas have four life stages: egg, pupae, larvae, blood-sucking adult
  • Adult fleas have mouthparts that are specifically adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood from their hosts
  • A flea can live from 14 days up to one year
  • A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day
  • Fleas are able to leap more than 100 times their body length
  • Fleas play an important role in the Tapeworm lifecycle too - flea larvae feed on tapeworm eggs and once they grow into adult fleas, your pet then ingests the Tapeworm-infected flea during self-grooming/biting. The flea is digested which releases Tapeworm eggs into your pet's digestive tract where they hatch and then latch on to feed on your pet's blood. Adult worms produce thousands of worm eggs that are released in your pet's faeces to infect the environment and continue their lifecycle
  • Regular flea treatment will help reduce the chances of your dog or cat getting infected with Tapeworm


How can I tell if my pet has fleas?

Many pets tend to get an allergic skin reaction and/or rash from flea bites - they'll bite and scratch themselves even to the point of breaking the skin, and it only takes ONE flea bite! Check for tiny dark specks (flea dirt) in your pets fur or small brown/black insects scurrying around. A good place to look is on the tummy or at the base fo the tail. You can also use a fine-toothed comb on your pet to brush some of the "dirt" onto a white paper, then add a few drops of water - you'll see a red colour indicating the dirt is digested blood.


Frequently asked questions

Does my pet have to scratch before I know he/she has fleas?

As mentioned previously, 95% of a flea's lifecycle is spent in the environment so just because your pet isn't scratching does not necessarily mean that they are flea free. Some pets may just have a more sensitive skin than others resulting in flea allergy dermatitis.


Are fleas dangerous to pets?

Aside from Flea Allergy Dermatitis, flea infestations may result in tapeworm infection, hair loss, and secondary skin infections. Also, large numbers of fleas can cause anaemia (destruction of red blood cells) in puppies and kittens.


Can't I just wait to see if my pet gets fleas and then take care of the problem?

Yes, but we highly recommend a preventative strategy for the following reasons:

  • Controlling and eliminating an existing flea problem takes a lot of time and effort. And it can become quite expensive if any of the steps are overlooked. The best flea control is always flea prevention.

  • Fleas can transmit tapeworms, bacteria and other disease forming organisms to pets as well as humans.

  • A pair of fleas may produce 20,000 fleas in three months! So to protect your home from flea infestation, prevention is the key.


Can I use dog flea products on cats?

No! Ingredients in topical flea products range from fipronyl, imidacloprid, pyrethrins, and for dogs only, a high concentration of a synthetic form of pyrethrin called permethrin. Products containing some of these ingredients or a higher concentration or labelled "for dogs only" should NEVER be used on cats. Cats have a very sensitive metabolism, so using these products on cats or even allowing your cat close contact with a dog that has been recently treated should be avoided. Although the margin of safety is very high for dogs, this is not true for cats. They can develop life-threatening toxicities.


How do I treat my pet for fleas?

For dogs and cats: Dose your pet with Capstar (http://www.vetsmart.co.za/products?text=capstar&items_per_page=15), a tablet that starts to work within 30 minutes and kills 90% of all fleas within four hours, followed by a spot-on flea treatment. These spot-ons last for 4 weeks but often take a few days to work, can't be used withing 2 days of bathing, and some only target flea eggs while others target flea adults - so it's important to buy the right one. Spot-on treatments need to be repeated every 4 weeks - we recommend Frontline Plus ( http://www.vetsmart.co.za/products?text=frontline&items_per_page=15 ) or Revolution ( http://www.vetsmart.co.za/products?text=revolution&items_per_page=15 ).

If you are a dog owner and prefer a monthly chewable (tasty) tablet treatment, Bravecto and Nexgard have shown great results in eliminating Flea Allergic Dermatitis: Bravecto ( http://www.vetsmart.co.za/products?text=bravecto&items_per_page=15 ) or Nexgard ( http://www.vetsmart.co.za/products?text=nexgard&items_per_page=15 ).

Alternatively, you can bath your pet using a flea shampoo or dip but remember that most of these products need to be on the pet for at least 10 minutes before rinsing (and some dips shouldn't be rinsed of at all) so take note of the instructions on the package insert. Remember to check how often the shampoo needs to be repeated to remain effective e.g. most flea shampoos need to be used weekly. Cats need to be treated carefully - make sure the shampoo is safe for cats and blow dry them when they're done to avoid them grooming themselves and ingesting the chemicals.


Tick Facts

  • Ticks have four life stages: egg, larvae (infant), nymph (immature) and adult (mature).
  • Ticks are arachnids which mean they are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than insects.
  • Like fleas, ticks feed on the blood of their host but they don't cause pets to itch.
  • Ticks may appear as a small dark speck attached to your pet's skin and may be difficult to remove. They increase in size the longer they are attached and may become as big as a fingernail. Once engorged, they drop off the pet into the environment/household to lay their eggs.
  • Ticks are generally not born with disease agents but they acquire them during feeding and pass them along onto other animals during subsequent feedings e.g Biliary (Babesiosis) and Tick Bite Fever (Ehrlichiosis), which can be fatal if not treated quickly enough.
  • Pets may contract multiple diseases from a single tick bite.


Can't I just wait to see if my pet gets ticks and then take care of the problem?

You could, but many of the diseases transmitted by ticks do so after 24 hours of attachment - often, owners detect the tick too late to prevent disease transmission.


How do I treat my pet for ticks?

For cats, we recommend Frontline Plus (http://www.vetsmart.co.za/sites/default/files/styles/product_gallery/pub...), and for dogs: Bravecto ( http://www.vetsmart.co.za/products?text=bravecto&items_per_page=15 ) or Nexgard ( http://www.vetsmart.co.za/products?text=nexgard&items_per_page=15 ).

*Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace a consultation with your veterinarian. It is best to contact your veterinarian immediately should you have any concerns or queries regarding your pet's health.