Fleas are one of the most annoying creatures to walk (and jump!) the planet. Not only do they cause distress to your pets as they bulldoze their way through their fur biting as they go along, but they also cause a great deal of discomfort. Never fear – I have some helpful tips on what to do if your pet suffers from flea bites, and how to get rid of fleas that make themselves at home, not only in your house – but in your poor pets’ fleecy hair!
Fleas: Tiny parasites that feed on blood
Not only do fleas cause an itching sensation, but they are very underhanded and designed for their primary purpose: feeding on blood. They have sucking and piercing mouth parts which allow them to effortlessly penetrate the skin. Their lateral compressed bodies make it easy for them to move in between hairs, and their backwards-facing spine makes it easy to cling onto and establish themselves in your pet’s fur. Fleas also have long hind legs, and can easily jump up to a distance of 15cm! This is the equivalent of a person jumping the length of a football field. What I would do with abilities like that! I would never require any other form of transport than my own legs…
Flea bites and the effects they have on your pets
Not only are the above facts surprising, but did you know that fleas bite the same area 2 to 3 times in search of blood? I believe I speak for everyone when I say there is nothing as annoying as having an itch that just keeps on itching. Having kept an eye on my bull terrier, Ozzy, I have noticed that he has been extra fidgety and agitated lately – constantly scratching behind his ears and biting his fur. Now I really feel for Ozzy – that must be terrible!
The swelling from a flea bite is less prominent than other insect bites, and you can distinguish this by a dark spot marked by a red, irritated area, although not entirely visible due to your pet’s hair concealing the area. Make no mistake, this is really itchy and uncomfortable as flea bites can be felt immediately and can be sore for up to a week.
Be sure to look out for “flea dirt” that resembles pepper-like fragments on your pet’s fur and when this “dirt” falls off onto their bedding it turns red when your pet’s body rubs against it. Also check areas such as your cat or dog’s neck, lower back, rear legs and tail for fleas, as these are their prime body parts for feeding. Even if you can’t see the fleas, they can still be in other stages of their lifecycle such as the eggs, larvae and pupae before becoming adults and can lie around in furniture, bedding, carpets, cracks and crevices before reaching adulthood and infesting your pets.
Bites from fleas can cause such severe itchiness that it can result in scabs and even hair loss!
How to get rid of fleas that plague your pets
To get rid of fleas, you can do the following:
Treat your pets to get rid of fleas:
- You can obtain an anti-flea shampoo from your local vet. This will help to alleviate itching and control fleas. Be sure to regularly wash your pets with this shampoo to ensure that you kill off their whole developmental cycle – from egg to adult.
- Spot-on and spray products can also be applied to your pets to kill fleas.
- Pets that have allergic reactions to flea bites, may require antihistamines or steroids to combat their sensitivity to flea bites. If an infection occurs due to open sores from vigorous scratching, then one would need to take your cat or dog to the vet to prescribe them antibiotics. Be sure to take your pet for follow up exams to ensure the flea control treatment has been successful.
Treat areas of your home to get rid of fleas:
- Vacuum carpets and furnishings where pets sleep to remove fleas and eggs. Use the strongest suction that will not damage the fabric. Take care when emptying the vacuum cleaner as fleas will still be alive – and you don’t want the buggers crawling back into your home and onto your pets.
- Shake or beat rugs and pet bedding outdoors so that fleas and eggs fall off.
- Wash pet bedding every week, ideally at above 50°C to get rid of fleas and take care when transferring bedding, rugs, etc, to avoid spreading flea eggs.
- Consider placing pet beds in areas without carpets such as on wooden floors where fleas can’t cling on to.
I must say since, I have started laundering Ozzy’s bedding regularly and washing him with anti-tick shampoo, he has been much less agitated and scratchy. I will keep on monitoring him to see if this does the trick, and will be sure to do some extra housekeeping chores to treat areas that Ozzy enjoys frequenting most. If this doesn’t prove too useful, I’ll get in the pest control experts to come and do a professional flea treatment. Bon voyage fleas!