Fleas in dogs and cats are one of the most common parasites. It’s worth knowing how to fight them.
What are fleas?
Fleas are parasites that can be commonly found in dogs and cats, especially those living in large groups. They also occur in wild animals. These are small insects only a few millimeters long. Their side flattening is characteristic – when viewed from above, they resemble running lines. Fleas have 4 development stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Only the latter can make long jumps and this is how it catches its victims. Flea eggs, larvae, and pupae live in the animals’ habitat, are quite widespread, and can survive for many months in appropriate conditions.
The most common species in Poland is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis). It occurs not only in cats but also in dogs and wild animals, e.g. hedgehogs. It may also happen that a flea bites a person, but this only happens when the insect has been starving for a long time and there is no better host around, or when the flea invasion in the house is really strong. It is important to remember that any cat, even one that does not leave the house, can be attacked by fleas. It is enough to accidentally bring eggs or larvae of these insects into the apartment, for example on shoes. According to the development cycle, they will become adult fleas, which can successfully start attacking our pets.
Be sure to also read the article: “Toxoplasmosis in cats – everything you need to know about it”.
We most often associate the word “flea infestation” with dogs because they go for daily walks and thus can easily encounter fleas. They do not necessarily have to come into contact with other flea-infested animals – it is enough that a flea larva or pupa attaches to their fur and is thus dragged into the apartment.
Be sure to also read the article: “Lamblia in dogs – everything you need to know about it”.
Symptoms of flea infestation
Adult fleas feed on the blood of their victims. They cut the animal’s skin and collect the blood that appears. This primarily causes itching, so the cat or dog starts scratching intensively. Some animals experience an allergic reaction due to the presence of fleas – flea allergy dermatitis (APZS), which causes dogs and cats to experience very severe itching. In such a case, by scratching and biting their fur, they may even cause extensive skin damage. Fleas on a puppy or kitten can be very dangerous, especially if the infestation is large. They can cause serious anemia in such a toddler and even lead to death.
How to recognize fleas
Recognizing a flea infestation is not difficult. The adult flea itself is not easy to see because it jumps on its host only to feed. If it is spotted, it quickly escapes into the environment. However, it leaves characteristic feces in the form of black dots or lines scattered on the animal’s skin – especially around the head, belly and the base of the tail. When these dots are collected on a white napkin or gauze and wet with water, they smear, giving a brown-red color. Similarly, when you bathe a flea-ridden animal, the flowing water will be brick-brown in color – this is due to the presence of flea feces on the fur.
How to get rid of fleas
It is best to act preventively and prevent the development of flea infestations in our pets by using regular protection against external parasites. The easiest way is to use preparations that last for at least several weeks. These may be, for example, flea drops for dogs and cats (spot-on), a flea collar (this is not a recommended solution for cats), a spray, or modern preparations in tablets. To be effective, they must be used according to the instructions on the leaflet. Please note that flea drops for cats, and preparations in any other form may not contain permethrin. This ingredient is found in some dog preparations, but it is highly poisonous to cats.
Unfortunately, antiparasitic preparations may cause various side effects, so you should always approach your dog or cat individually and it is always worth consulting the use of such preparation with a veterinarian.
Home remedies for fleas
You’re probably wondering if there are any home remedies for fleas on your dog. One of the well-known methods is the use of apple cider vinegar. It is diluted with water and then sprayed on the dog’s fur. Apple cider vinegar acts as a flea repellent, but it is not an insecticide. The fleas will simply escape into the environment, and as soon as the vinegar smell disappears, they will immediately return. Some essential oils (e.g. cedar or lavender) have a similar effect. They repel fleas, but unfortunately, they are no longer noticeable. Home remedies for fleas on cats are the same as for dogs. However, no cat will probably accept being sprayed with vinegar, and in addition, it may lick it off its fur and irritate its mouth. However, essential oils may be toxic to your pet, especially if they are licked.
Salt and baking soda for fleas
When combating flea eggs and larvae in the environment with home remedies, table salt combined with baking soda may be helpful. They have drying properties, and eggs and larvae need a moist environment to develop. The baking soda and salt mixture should be poured into all the cracks in the floor and around the skirting boards and then vacuumed thoroughly after a few hours.
How to remove fleas from your home
If we already have a large flea infestation in our home, it is best to use a specialized preparation that eliminates all developmental forms of the parasite. Additionally, you need to thoroughly clean the entire house, especially beds, carpets, and sofas. Flea eggs and larvae can hide in various crevices, so good vacuuming is essential. Fighting the invasion may require a lot of time and multi-pronged action (simultaneously protecting the animals with insecticides and using agents that combat flea eggs, larvae, and pupae in the environment), but if you are consistent, you will eventually be able to clean the entire apartment.