Plague of fleas heading our way following mild winter
Vet warns households to be vigilant and start flea protection early:
Plague of fleas heading our way following mild winter
• Flea population set to explode this spring
• Breaking flea cycle critical for controlling infestations
Auckland, September, 2016 – A plague of fleas set to be the one of the worst New Zealand has seen in several years is on its way and households need to prepare now.
Bayer New Zealand veterinarian Dr Kirstie Inglis says a mild winter and a forecast long hot summer will create perfect conditions for a massive flea outbreak.
If left unchecked, flea infestations can not only harm cats and dogs, but also people. While the most common issues arising from fleas are irritation and discomfort from bites, in rare cases there may be more serious repercussions such as bacterial infections or transmission of flea tapeworm.
“Pet owners need to start thinking about a flea control strategy now before numbers become out of control in the warmer weather,” says Dr Inglis.
“It’s particularly important to make sure your pets are protected to prevent them suffering from the irritation of bites which can cause excessive scratching, nibbling or grooming and often lead to bald spots.”
Fleas feed by piercing the skin, injecting a substance that stops blood clotting and sucking up the resulting free flowing blood. Heavy infestations can produce life threatening anaemia in small kittens and puppies. Flea saliva can also trigger severe reactions in allergic animals.
“Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD) is the most common allergic skin condition of dogs and cats that we see in clinics. Patients often self-traumatise sites of flea bites, causing breaks in the skin which can lead to secondary bacterial infections that may require veterinary treatment.
“Few people realise that only about 5% of the flea population lives as adults on a pet. The remaining 95% live in the environment as eggs, larvae and pupae which develop into adults. These concentrate around pets’ sleeping areas and like hiding in carpets, cracks between floorboards and under debris in the garden,” says Dr Inglis.
“Females lay up to 50 eggs per day, which then hatch into larvae that crawl into dark spaces where they develop in to pupae inside a highly protective cocoon.
“Adult fleas can then emerge from these cocoons in as little as eight days, usually in response to vibration from a pet walking past or by their body heat, and then jump onto a pet to start the cycle all over again. Keep in mind however that new adult fleas can take up to six months to leave their cocoons, so can overwinter in houses and be a source of infection even in treated households.”
Dr Inglis says flea populations boom when the weather favours a shortening of this life cycle. Although larvae development starts from as low as 13oC, temperatures of 21-30oC and 70% humidity can see the cycle shortening to just 12 days – rapidly building up a flea infestation with hordes of hungry fleas wanting more blood.
How to tackle fleas – advice from Dr Inglis
Don’t wait until your pets or home are infested. Prevention of a flea problem is much easier than a cure. Protect all the pets in the household with a product that not only kills adult fleas but disrupts an additional stage of the life cycle, for example, Advantage, Advocate or Seresto from veterinary clinics. Used as a monthly spot-on treatment, Advantage and Advocate kill adult fleas on pets, without the need for fleas to bite first, as well as killing the larvae in the pets’ environment.
For longer protection, there is an innovative new flea collar called Seresto, which protects pets against adult fleas, flea larvae and ticks for eight months. Application of a Seresto collar now will ensure your pets are protected all spring and summer when fleas are at their worst.
Flea prevention should be used year round as this will significantly reduce environmental contamination. Severe infestations may also require an insect growth regulating environmental control such as a flea bomb or environmental spray from your veterinary clinic.
Some tips for keeping your house free of fleas:
• Regularly clean your pet’s blankets, beds, and throw rugs in a hot wash
• Vacuum furniture and car seats that can house pre-adult fleas, larvae and eggs
• Regularly vacuum your house, even wood flooring and tiles where eggs, larvae and pupae can be present. Dispose of the vacuum cleaner contents in a closed bag.
• Prevent animals from entering damp crawl spaces, such as under porches and decks.
• Remove piles of plant debris that pets may like to sleep on from the garden
• Prevent other animals, such as stray cats, from entering your house.
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