Flea but not so easy to shift

Doug Patterson
Doug Patterson

It’s coming up to that itchy time of year at the surgery when we start to think about fleas.

Fleas fascinate me; on one hand they are skin crawlingly disgusting; on the other they deserve respect for being extremely successful parasites.

Regular readers of this column will be aware that I covered this very subject around this time last year, but so common is the problem I feel that it warrants a repeat.

We’ll start by looking at the one ‘hitch-hiker’ flea which your dog or cat picks up when he or she is out in the garden or on a walk.

Indoor cats, sadly, are not immune from flea infestations, and neither are dogs who never contact other animals, because no direct contact is required for transmission of fleas ... the eggs come from the ground on which we walk.

So that flea runs about on your pet and takes a blood ‘meal’ approximately every 15 minutes, at which point she lays a small clutch of eggs. These eggs immediately fall off the coat and fall into the carpet, or sofa, or your bed (that one will make you itch!) She will live for about a week, and might lay up to 200 eggs in her short lifetime.

These eggs hatch after about two weeks. From these eggs will spring tiny caterpillars that can crawl up to 20 feet, and can live just as easily in hard floors, so ridding your house of carpets doesn’t necessarily help.

Next comes the pupa. Flea Pupae have a hard shell, and resist vacuuming, heat and dryness. They resist all known chemical sprays, and can remain alive for up to two years! This is why fleas cause us so much trouble. They hatch in response to a pet or a human walking past, when they quickly hatch and catch on to whatever just walked past. These new baby fleas can start drinking blood in as little as seven seconds, and will quickly mature to start laying eggs of their own.

Yuk! So what do we do about them? Prevention is better than cure. Regular application of a flea preventative stops these things getting into your house in the first place. Please do visit your vet to get a prescription flea preventative though, we see so many cases of flea infestation when owners are caught unawares thinking that the over the counter products that they have been using will put pay to these little critters. Sadly, in many cases, it simply isn’t true.