• Dr Cori

How to tell if your pet has fleas.

Fleas, every pet owners nightmare. These pests are small, wingless brown insects that live and grow on your pets body. They are particularly good at jumping and are known to jump from one animal to another.


They have four lifestages: Egg, pupae, larvae and adult. The first three stages happen in the environment and the last, adult is when we see fleas on our pets. They thrive by biting your pet and taking small blood meals to feed from.


The signs that your pet has a flea problem include:


- Visualising small black dots when you part the hair on your pet. This is flea dirt, otherwise known as flea poo and is the waste product they excrete after feeding and digesting on your pet. These small black dots can also be found on your pets bedding or places they spend a long time laying down. If you are unsure you can brush the coat and add the black spots to a wet paper towel- the black changes to red/brown (the colour of the blood meal the fleas are eating)


- Seeing fleas on your pet when you look closely at their coat and skin- 3mm long brown insects that move with quite incredible speed when you part the coat.


- Your pet will be very itchy and constantly scratching or chewing at their coat. This itching and scratching can lead to further problems of self trauma, and secondary infections.

- The most common place to find fleas is around the back end especially at the base of the tail and body.



Fleas are a troublesome issue for our cats and dogs, and if left uncontrolled can cause serious disease such as severe anaemia and worm burdens, not to mention the problem of trying to get rid of a flea infestation of the home!


With each meal, the fleas take small amounts of blood from their hosts. In small or very young animals e.g kittens and puppies this can result in a life threatening anaemia (low blood cell count) that will need aggressive treatment to reverse. Sometimes we are unable to reverse the damage done by fleas and we loose the patient which is always heartbreaking.


Fleas can be controlled well with preventative treatment. There are so many options on the market these days! Tablets, spot-on treatment, combined flea and worm products the list goes on.


To fully protect your cat you are looking for a product that kills both adult fleas and their eggs. This way you effectively eliminate the life cycle. It is important to treat regularly (follow guidelines from the manufacturer or your veterinarian) to ensure there are no gaps in your treatment schedules.


Fleas are also important in the lifecycle of the tapeworm, so if your pet has a flea burden they are also at risk of a worm burden as well so it is very important to have effective flea and worming control schedules set in place.


The bad news is, if you do find fleas on your pet, it means they are also in your home as well. You will need to treat your home with a ‘flea bomb’ to eliminate the flea burden in your home. I also recommend vaccuming the whole house and hot washing all bedding. It is important to remember to remove all pets and people whilst you let the flea bomb off to avoid any inhalant irritation.


The cost of treating a severe flea infestation far outweighs the cost of regular treatment and fully eliminating an infestation when it gets into your home is challenging and not always successful without fully eliminating the life cycle of the fleas.


The easiest way to deal with fleas is through preventative measures. Set up a reminder on your phone or calendar today to remind you when your pets next flea treatment is due.

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