What you should know about fleas?
Your pet’s scratching could be an early sign of fleas
Pets Most Often Affected
All cats, from kittens to seniors
What You Should Know
Adult fleas are small, flat, wingless, and have three pairs of jointed legs. They have siphon-like mouthparts and feed on the blood of their hosts by piercing and sucking. Fleas are just about everywhere – everywhere there are animals – including birds and many mammals.
Cats are prime hosts, but three of the four stages of the flea’s life cycle are spent away from the host. The life-cycle stages are egg, larva, pupa and adult. Under optimal conditions, the life cycle averages about 28 days. When conditions are not favourable, the life cycle can be longer. Because fleas prosper in warm, humid environments, temperature and humidity changes can affect the length and success of their life cycles. The adult flea spends all of its time on a host, and this is the life-cycle stage pet owners usually encounter.
It is not true that adult fleas hop from the host animal back to the environment and then to another host. A flea can survive only a few days if it is taken off the host and left in the environment.
In suitable environments, fleas can breed indoors all year. Fleas on cats can result in obvious irritation and itching. But they can also trigger a variety of more serious allergic reactions, including dermatitis – an inflammation of the skin. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms. Because fleas feed on blood, blood loss can result in anaemia, with kittens at particular risk.
Scratching or excessive licking may be the first sign that your pet has a problem with fleas. This scratching can lead to hair loss and skin infections. Look for irritated areas on your pet’s back, abdomen, neck, rump (especially the tail base) and on the inside of the thighs. If you think your pet has fleas, see your veterinarian.
- Hair loss
- Unusual amount of chewing and licking
- Black specks on pet’s skin and coat
What You Can Do to Help
Your veterinarian can recommend a preventive treatment
How long will it take to get rid of my pet’s flea infestation?
It’s important to realize that the fleas you see on your cat are only a small percent of the entire flea population. Fleas lay eggs that fall off your cat into your home or where your cat lives or sleeps. These eggs hatch and become flea larvae that spin cocoons and become pupae. These pupae will eventually develop into pre-emerged adult fleas and remain in their cocoons until stimulated to emerge by the presence of a host. Only 5% of the flea population exists as adult fleas; the remainder is immature flea stages that are too small for you to see. Flea eggs make up 50%, while flea larvae make up 35% and pupae 10%.
Topical treatment kills adult fleas and prevents flea eggs from hatching, so once you apply it any adult fleas will be killed and flea reproduction will stop. Remember, however that the fleas you see on your cat are only 5% of the problem. In order for your flea infestation to be resolved, all of the immature stages in your pet’s environment must become adult fleas that are then killed by contact with your cat. This may take several months, depending on the degree of your flea infestation and the temperature (which affects the length of the flea life cycle). This means that you can expect to see a greater than 90% control of your flea infestation during the first month but because adult fleas will emerge from cocoons in your environment, you may see a few fleas for several months until the flea population is destroyed. So you may need a little patience; and don’t be concerned about seeing small numbers of adult fleas on your cat while you are destroying the flea population. When the environmental flea population has been destroyed, the problem will end, but keep treating to prevent a new flea infestation from beginning.
Are flea bites harmful or just annoying?
Cats differ in their response to flea bites. When fleas bite, they deposit flea saliva into the skin, which acts as an anticoagulant so that they can feed easily. The flea saliva which contains foreign proteins, can cause an allergic reaction resulting in flea allergy dermatitis, also known as flea-bite hypersensitivity, which causes the skin to become inflamed and lose hair. Secondary bacterial infections may also complicate the underlying flea allergy. Cats with flea-bite hypersensitivity commonly are itchy and frequently have hair loss at the base of the tail, extending up the back. Just as certain people are allergic to bee stings and others not, so are certain pets more sensitive to flea bite saliva than are others. Cats sensitive to flea bites may be very uncomfortable due to their flea exposure, while less-sensitive cats may be unaffected by them. With hypersensitive pets, it only takes one or two fleas to set off a nasty reaction. When flea infestations are severe and blood loss is high from feeding, serious illness may result, especially in kittens. Severe anaemia and death may result from severe flea infestations. Products such as Revolution (Reg.No.: G2819 & G2820, Act 36 1947) will effectively prevent the establishment of fleas and control flea infestation following application. Use of Revolution will ensure that treated animals will be free of flea infestation. In clinical trials Revolution was shown to improve the clinical signs associated with flea allergy dermatitis as a direct result of eliminating fleas from the animals and their environment.
Disclaimer: Zoetis takes no responsibility for any claims that may arise from information contained in this information sheet. Individual situations may vary from location to location and it is recommended that you consult your veterinarian before any management or treatment decisions are implemented.
Vrywaring: Zoetis neem geen verantwoordelikheid vir enige eise wat mag voortspruit uit inligting vervat in hierdie inligtingsdokument. Individuele situasies varieer van plek tot plek en dit word voorgestel dat u eers u veearts kontak alvorens enige bestuurs- of behandelingsbesluite geïmplementeer word.