Fleas are traditionally a summer time problem and are generally thought of as being rare at this time of the year and yet I have seen several cats and dogs in the surgery this week who have been suffering from a heavy flea infestation.

Adult fleas are about 2 mm long and live deep in a pet’s hair coat. They bite through the skin and feed by sucking your pet’s blood. They trigger an inflammatory reaction in the skin which can lead to a cycle of self-trauma and secondary bacterial infection. Most worryingly, some animals who are exposed to fleas develop a “flea allergic dermatitis” where they become allergically sensitised to fleas. In these sensitised pets, very low level exposure to fleas can trigger a debilitating skin reaction and can be difficult to control.

Fleas lay eggs in the pet’s coat, which then fall off into the environment where you pet spends time, especially during itching and scratching; the eggs hatch into larvae and then pupate, before emerging as adults and jumping back onto the pet to complete the cycle. Fleas are traditionally more prevalent in the summer because the environmental stages progress more quickly in warm weather.

I think that the flush of fleas we have seen recently are caused by the cold dark nights and many peoples’ instinctive desire to turn up the central heating. With less ventilation in our homes at this time of year and a lovely warm humid environment, eggs are developing into larvae and larvae into pupae and pupae into adults faster than ever.

Fortunately, by using a highly effective flea product, it should be possible to eliminate any fleas your pet may have and prevent any re-infestation.

When treating a pet with fleas, it is essential to use a product that the fleas are sensitive to. Some older products are not effective as the fleas are no longer sensitive to them. Your Vet will be able to prescribe something which is highly effective at killing any adult fleas and which is very safe for your pet.

It is essential to also tackle the environmental stages, otherwise, your pet will just be re-infected again as the next generation of fleas emerges to adulthood. Once again, flea larvae are often resistant to older products so speak to your Vet who will be able to advise on the most effective products.

Now if that hasn’t got you scratching, I don’t know what will!