In Canada, flea populations usually peak early August to early October, but warm temperatures and high moisture can generate an ideal environment for fleas year-round.
Fleas are small (about 3 mm long), brown or reddish brown insects that have flat bodies and feed by sucking blood from animals and humans, causing itchy bites. Although fleas are tiny, they can make your dog or cat’s life miserable. These nasty little parasites can jump up to 30 cm high, which allows them to jump from the ground and onto pets with ease. Once on your pet, fleas can bite up to once every 5 minutes leaving your cat or dog itchy, sore and uncomfortable. Flea bites look like small red spots that often appear in clusters or lines.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), an allergy to flea saliva that creates a rash, is the most common skin disease of dogs and cats. Fleas also spread disease, they can transmit tapeworms. Pets can become infected with tapeworm if they accidentally ingest a flea while they are grooming.
There are four life stages of the flea. For effective flea control, it is important to know how to break this life cycle in more than one stage.
The flea life cycle consists of egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages. Eggs are laid in the hair coat and are designed to fall off your pet and into your home. Larvae hatch from the eggs and develop in a pet’s environment by feeding on adult flea feces (i.e. digested blood) that fall out of the hair coat of the pet. Larvae eventually spin cocoons, often within carpet fibers, for pupation. Pupae are resistant to freezing, drying, and insecticides, and can lie dormant for many months! New fleas develop from pupae and can begin feeding within hours of finding a dog or cat. The entire flea life cycle can be completed in as little as three weeks!
How to Tell if your Pet has Fleas
- Little dark spots that move in the fur
- Small black particles (flea droppings) or white specks (flea eggs) on the pet or bedding
- Reddened patches and irritation on your pet’s skin
- Excessive licking or scratching
- Hair loss
If you are not sure you have a flea problem, use a flea comb on your pet’s back, tail and haunches. The flea comb may catch fleas or flea dirt (feces). To distinguish flea dirt from other dirt, wet it with a little water. Flea dirt will dissolve into a red-brown colour.
What Can I Do?!
Treating your pet with a flea prevention monthly, according to the product label, can effectively kill fleas and treat a flea infestation. Always read and follow the label on any product you use.
While treatment of the environment is not needed when some topical products are used, you can put pet beds in the dryer on high heat to kill developing fleas. Vacuuming can encourage developing fleas to hatch. Pay attention to low traffic areas that pets may not frequent in your cleaning regime.
If you think your cat/ dog may be suffering from fleas, give us a call. We would be happy to discuss prevention options and set you up with a medication. If you are concerned about hair loss, a rash, and excessive licking we can schedule you in for a full exam with our doctor and she can then discuss with you all the options available.
You're not alone!