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Published by Dr. Zak Saleh, PhD, MVSc, DVM in External Parasites · 9 March 2020
Tags: PetFleas
How to Protect Your Pet from Fleas?

Cat Fleas
What are fleas?
Fleas are small, parasitic insects that feed on blood from mammals and birds. Adult fleas typically feed several times a day, through biting their host. There are over 2000 flea species globally, however the one that is most commonly found on our furry loved ones is the Ctenocephalides felis, also known as the cat flea. They are just a few millimetres long, wingless and a brown or reddish colour. While they are flightless, their back legs are designed for jumping, they are able to jump up to 30cm high, which means they can jump up from the ground onto your pet with ease.
Are fleas a serious concern?
Fleas are often thought of as just a nasty nuisance, but they can pose serious health risks to your pet. Since fleas will feed multiple times a day, your pet is being bitten multiple times daily, which painful, itchy and uncomfortable for your furry loved one. If your pet is persistently itching the bites, this can lead to skin infections and hairloss. Furthermore, some animals can become allergic to fleas, and then develop flea allergy dermatitis.  If an infestation of fleas is severe and persistent it can actually lead to significant blood loss, causing anaemia. A heavy flea infestation can be lethal, especially for smaller or younger animals. Some fleas can carry infections and other parasitic entities, that can infect your animal. Fleas may carry a bacteria known as Bartonella which can cause fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes. Fleas can also carry a form of intestinal tapeworms known as Dipylidium caninum that absorbs nutrients from your pet’s digestive system.

Where are fleas commonly found?
Fleas are most active in early August to early October, but can be active year round. They thrive in well-regulated, indoor temperatures, and if one flea enters your home, it can likely lead to an entire infestation. So even if your pet lives strictly indoors, there is still a risk they can develop a flea infestation. The cat fleas will rarely bite humans, so you may not know you have a flea infestation unless you check your pets.

How can I tell if my pet has fleas?
To assess your pet for fleas, first examine them for “flea dirt” which is black particles the size ground pepper. This is the easiest sign to see of a flea infestation, since fleas themselves are often harder to see. But how can you tell if it is actually flea dirt? The most sure way to identify flea dirt on your pet is to rub or comb the dirt from your pet onto a white piece of paper. Then transfer the debris to a damp piece of paper. If the debris turns red or rust-colour this is likely a sign that it is indeed flea dirt. The reason the debris will change colour like this is because flea dirt is actually flea waste material, and the material will turn red when wet, as it is residual blood the flea has ingested from your pet.  Other obvious signs of a flea infestation is irritated, itchy skin.

Do fleas only stay on their host?
If your pet has fleas, unfortunately this means it is likely there are fleas inside your home. Since they are little travelers, often times fleas will be without host, inside the home, and able to infect your pet after they have been treated, or spread to other animals in the home, if the house is not properly treated. Vacuuming is important for getting rid of fleas, but you may also want to consider treating your home with insecticide as well. Make sure when you vacuum for a flea infestation that the vacuum bag is thrown out promptly, to prevent them from escaping and re-infesting the home.  To treat your pet for fleas, you will have to bring them in to your veterinarian to receive proper treatment. Even if you notice only one pet that has fleas, it is recommended that you have all pets in the home treated, since fleas can go undetected for quite some time and tend to spread quickly.
How can I protect my pet against fleas?
Prevention is the best approach to take when it comes to protecting your furry loved ones from fleas. Prevention can come in many forms, and can be available in pet stores or through your veterinarian. Although there are some good treatments available through pet stores, not all are effective, and therefore it is recommended that flea prevention is acquired from your veterinarian.

Brooker Ridge Animal Hospital - 905-898-1010

107-525 Brooker Ridge, Newmarket, ON L3X 2M2

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