Fleas: Top tips to prevent & treat fleas on pets & in the home!

Ask any pet owner what the one thing that they dread the most is – and they’ll tell that it’s FLEAS, especially in summer! This is the time of the year when these insects thrive because they prefer a warm environment.  Don’t be fooled though because they are just as active in winter! While dogs and cats are less likely to contract fleas in cold weather, pets that are kept indoors and exposed to heat are more at risk.

1. Why are dogs and cats susceptible to fleas?

Fleas are nimble little creatures with strong back legs which enables them to jump from host to host or from the environment onto the host. They can jump 10,000 times in a row and their three pairs of legs and laterally flattened body allows for exceptional leaping abilities as well as quick movement in a dog or cat’s fur. Fleas are dark in colour and approximately the size of a pin head – another reason why one can so easily miss seeing them. They dislike light and will usually be hidden deep within the furry areas of your pet or on their inner thighs or belly. Fleas don’t have wings and therefore cannot fly. 
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2. What are the signs of fleas in dogs and cats?

The flea’s bite can cause itching for the dog or cat. In many cases, if an animal is sensitive to the saliva of a flea, excessive itching and scratching occurs which can lead to hair loss, hot spots, scabs and secondary infections.  Just one bite from a flea can cause an allergic reaction – this is known as a condition called flea allergy dermatitis.

Flea dirt or droppings is another telltale sign that your pet has fleas. Flea dirt is actually flea faeces and looks like dark specks of pepper on your pet’s skin. In more extreme cases of flea infestation, pets may develop flea anaemia – fleas suck a huge amount of the animal’s blood which causes blood loss over time. An inadequate number of red blood cells is life-threatening, and is especially problematic in puppies and young kittens. Signs to watch for include pale gums, listlessness and cold body temperature.
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3. Why it’s important to understand the flea life cycle

To really understand how to prevent and control fleas on your pets and in your home, you have to understand the flea life cycle. There are four stages to the flea’s life cycle – flea egg, larva, pupa and adult.

Flea Eggs
The flea will first seek out her host, a warm-blooded animal such as dog or cat or even a human however, dogs and cats are the host of choice and fleas will only go for humans if no dog or cat is present in the household, or if the animal host does not provide sufficient nourishment. The adult female flea lives on your pet for a number of weeks and during this time will suck the blood of the animal and lay up to 50 eggs per day. Over her life span, she may lay up to 2000 eggs.  As the eggs are round and slippery, they fall off your pet’s hair into your environment – on your carpet, in your bedding and yard and wherever your dog or cat spends time.  

Larvae
Once the fleas move away from the light and land in your environment, they begin to develop deep in the carpet and small cracks in the floor. The egg then hatches into larvae and these tiny worm-like larvae live in the floor cracks, amongst carpet fibres and outside in the environment.

Pupae
The larvae grow, moult and form a cocoon, and then a pupa where they start to fully develop into an adult.

Adult flea
The pupae are protected by their cocoon and able to survive for a long time while they wait for exactly the right environmental conditions and host. They emerge from their cocoons when they sense heat, exhaled carbon dioxide and vibrations – these factors indicate that the host is nearby. The adult is now ready to jump onto a nearby host. 

Under favourable conditions, the flea can complete its entire cycle in just fourteen days.
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4. How to prevent and treat fleas in the home?

It is important to clean your home thoroughly if you have pets. Vacuuming carpets and furniture will pick up flea eggs, especially if you allow your pets to sleep on your bed or lie on your sofa. Cleaning your pet’s bedding will help to remove eggs and larvae – all bedding should be washed in the washing machine as this will ensure that they do not survive.

We recommend a natural flea repellent spray that can be used to spray indoors and outdoors (as well as on your fur friends) to prevent and treat a flea infestation - Vondi's Khakibos Spray. Remember to concentrate on shady areas in your garden as well as your yard as well because fleas breed there.
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5. How to prevent and treat fleas on pets?

The most effective way to control fleas on your pets is to treat them directly all year round. This means that you have to use a vet recommended flea treatment in the form of a topical application or spray on your dog or cat. It is important that you treat your pet for fleas every four weeks. Never use the same product that is intended for use on your dog for your cat or vice versa. Use a flea comb on your dog or cat to check for and remove fleas. 
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6. Can natural remedies help to treat fleas?

Natural remedies can definitely help to treat fleas when used in combination with conventional flea medication. More and more pet owners are becoming increasingly concerned about the toxic chemicals used in convention flea medications. The best way to treat your dog or cat naturally is to ensure that your pet is healthy – a healthy pet is less likely to develop fleas than an unhealthy one.

Make sure that you are feeding your pet a healthy, balanced diet to strengthen the immune system. At the Feelgood Health Shop, Unit 6, Westlake Lifestyle Centre, Westlake Business Park, Cape Town -  Doggone Active Raw Food and Vondi’s cooked foods are available – both these foods are packed with nutrients essential for your pet’s health and wellbeing.

Pets who suffer from skin problems caused by flea allergies will experience itching, scratching, hair loss and irritation of the skin. Use natural remedies such as Allergy Itch Ease and Skin & Coat Tonic to treat your pet’s skin. Allergy Itch Ease is a 100% homeopathic remedy   to treat itching and scratching, and offer temporary relief for your pet. 
Skin & Coat Tonic is a herbal remedy that strengthens and heals the skin – used regularly, your pet’s skin and coat will look full, healthy and glossy again.  We also recommend AllergiClear Pets, which is a herbal remedy which contains a natural antihistamine which will help treat the allergy itself.

For pets that are susceptible to flea allergy dermatitis, our AllergiClear Pets can be used to stop the itching and reactions from the flea bites. Your dog  will enjoy our Vondi's Tick & Flea Pet Shampoo which is a gentle cleansing shampoo to prevent and treat fleas while your cat will more than likely prefer our Vondi's Khakibos Tick & Flea Powder

And, that’s the secret to controlling fleas – treat your home, treat your outdoor environment and treat your pet!
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