How to get rid of fleas on dogs and cats
Most dogs and cats will pick up fleas at some point in their life. And these pesky parasites can cause real problems for our pets! And us!
Once fleas infest your home, they can be super hard to get rid of! Luckily, they’re easy to prevent and regular treatment combined with good home hygiene habits, will help keep fleas away.
But bear in mind, fleas can still find their way into the most pristine homes and on squeaky-clean pets.
This is because it's estimated that a huge 95% of flea eggs, larvae and pupae live in the environment, not on your pet.
If the thought of fleas is itching away at you, we can help! Read on as we break down the facts about fleas with top tips to keep them off your pets and out of your home!
What are fleas and how do they spread?
Fleas are tiny wingless parasites that feeds on animal or human blood. Even though they don’t have wings, they spread quickly because they are capable of jumping long distances.
There are different species of fleas, such as dog fleas, cat fleas and even human fleas. But many of these species of fleas can infest more than one host species.
Basically, if you’re the proud parent of a cat and a dog, or a few of each, you’re even more at risk of an infestation.
Pets are most likely to get fleas from direct contact with other pets, in the garden, in the home, or from our clothes and shoes.
What do fleas look like?
Fleas are small, flat, oval-shaped insects with hard shells covered in hairs. They are dark/reddish-brown in colour and measure around one-tenth of an inch.
Because they’re so small, it can be hard to spot a flea, especially if your pet’s fur is a similar colour.
Although they are visible to the human eye, you can use a magnifying glass to take a closer look and confirm if your pet has fleas. They have six legs (four short ones and two longer ones) that allow them to jump from place to place.
How do fleas affect our cats and dogs?
Aside from being very uncomfortable for your pet, in very serious cases, a substantial infestation of fleas can become a medical emergency in a kitten or puppy, if the loss of blood leads to anaemia. Fleas can also carry diseases and pass them on to your pet.
For instance, did you know that fleas can transmit tapeworm to your pets? It happens if your cat or dog swallows a flea infected with a tapeworm larvae whilst self-grooming.
Once the flea is digested by the dog or cat, the larval tapeworm is able to develop into an adult tapeworm.
Nightmare fuel! And If left untreated, tapeworms in dogs can cause serious health issues such as anaemia, weight loss, and intestinal blockages.
Tapeworms can be irritating to a dog or cats bottom, so one of the most-common tell-tale signs is if your companion “scooting” it’s behind along the floor. Other signs include:
- Weight loss even when eating normally
- Distended abdomen
- Dull coat
- Visual evidence of tapeworms
It is important to see a vet as soon as possible for treatment If you notice any signs of tapeworms infecting your pet.
But we hope it never has to get to this point, which is why we’re going to tell you how to avoid an infestation altogether.
How can I tell if my pet has fleas?
Carefully inspect your pet's skin to look for fleas, especially around the armpit and groin. These areas are often a flea's favourite hangout because they tend to be warm and protected.
Part your pet’s fur to expose the skin. If fleas are present, you may notice red, bumpy skin, especially if your pet has been scratching.
You may even see tiny adult fleas that scurry away or even jump or hatched or cocooned larvae that are developing into adults.
You can also use a flea comb to identify fleas on your pet. Run it through your companion's fur, starting close to the skin. If an infestation is present, the comb should capture any fleas or flea droppings.
Other signs your pet has fleas?
There are a few more key signs to look out for if you suspect your pet has fleas:
- Areas of hair loss (bald/sore patches due to biting at skin)
- Redness and irritation
- Areas of thickened skin (e.g. around ear edges)
- Bites on your body (usually in a straight line or a cluster, most commonly found on the legs and feet, calves and ankles in particular)
If you see tiny black specks that look like finely ground black pepper in your cat or dogs' fur or bedding, this could be flea "dirt". It’s another common sign of a flea infestation.
You can double check that it’s flea dirt and not ordinary dirt by collecting any black specks that fall off your pet with a white paper towel.
Sprinkle the specks with a bit of water and if they turn a dark reddish-brown colour, it’s probably flea dirt.
How to get rid of a flea infestation?
- Treat your pet with a vet recommended flea medication - Our in-house vet team recommends Flea Screen for both cats and dogs. It’s UK Veterinary Licensed.
- Treat the house - Use a vet recommended environmental spray in your home. Remove pets from the home and spray all areas your pet has access to, working your way to the door. Leave the house for 30 minutes and then go back in. Open all windows and vacuum the whole home. Top tip - Spray Indorex Environmental Spray on the bottom of the vacuum to kill any fleas/eggs on the way into the vac.
- Wash all the pet bedding on a minimum 60-degree wash - If possible, spray with the flea spray first, but do a patch test.
- Wash any loose furnishings - Such as pillows, curtains and steam any upholstery surfaces your pet has likely come into contact with.
- Repeat the above after two weeks - Continue to hoover and use Indorex as new larvae may be hatching due to the flea life cycle.
Top tips for preventing reinfestation
- De-flea all year round - Maintaining a regular flea protection regime throughout your pet’s life is the best way you can prevent fleas. Flea, tick, and worm treatment should be given every four to eight weeks, to reduce the chance of infestation.
- Flea-treat your home - Fleas and their larvae can survive in your home, without a host, for many months. Clean any carpets and upholstery in your house regularly, preferably with a steam cleaner. Vacuum regularly and wash your pets bedding often.
- Keep your garden trimmed - Keep grass short and clear up any dead leaves/garden debris.
- Deworm your pets after a flea infestation - As mentioned earlier, fleas can pass on tapeworms. Luckily, we’ve got a good treatment for that here too.
- Bathe and brush pets regularly - A good grooming routine won’t get rid of fleas, but it will help you spot them earlier. Plus, it’s great bonding time for you and your buddy! Win-win.
Come along for a free chat with one of our vet nurses to discuss the best course of treatment for your pet. Our veterinary professionals can even advise some pet-friendly products for you to treat your home with during a free online consultation.