PDSA

Pest control experts are urging animal owners to tackle home furnishings and carpets in the fight against fleas.

National trade body, The British Pest Control Association (BPCA) is flagging up concerns about the pest, and a lack of knowledge among pet-owners about the insects’ life cycle. It’s warning owners to make sure they follow advice relating to their homes as well as the treatment of pets.

Natalie Bungay, BPCA technical officer, said, “We stress to pet-owners that they should only use products recommended by their vet when treating their animal for fleas.

“However, we find that many people don’t understand the life of cycle of fleas and, while they are quick to treat their pet, don’t always take action to eradicate fleas from elsewhere in their home.

“As around 95 per cent of flea eggs, larvae and pupae live in the environment – not on pets – treating the animals isn’t always enough to combat an infestation.”

Flea

Due to warmer temperatures, fleas are more likely to become a pest during the summer months, but once the life cycle has been established in a home, it can be tricky to reverse.

Natalie added, “People usually feel ashamed to find out they have a flea infestation, as fleas are often associated with dirty environments. But this is a common misconception – fleas are not picky.

“Although a home or business that isn’t vacuumed or cleaned is more likely to provide a better environment for fleas to thrive, they will also infest clean places in their search for a warm-blooded host.

“Either way, it is crucial to solve a flea infestation without hesitation as they can quickly get out of control.”

In line with common veterinary advice, BPCA recommends that people attempting to get rid of fleas in their home treat any pets with an appropriate product, followed by a thorough clean of the home, including a hot wash of pet bedding, sofa cushions and any soft furnishings which may be affected.

The Association says the lifecycle of the flea takes place in four clear stages: egg, larva, pupa and imago (adult). Depending on environmental conditions, these stages can take between two weeks and eight months to complete, and about a month in the summer. Flea eggs can lie dormant for up to 18 months so it is difficult to predict when an infestation will occur and a female flea can lay around 1,500 eggs during her lifetime.

The females must first take a ‘blood meal’ from an infested animal, after which they lay their eggs. The eggs drop onto the floor and surrounding furnishings, and after several days will develop into larvae which, when fully grown, will spin well camouflaged, silken cocoons. Once fully developed the adult waits within the cocoon until it detects the vibrations caused by a person or animal. It can also detect pressure, heat, noise, or carbon dioxide from potential hosts and only then does it emerge.

Dog checked for fleas

The best way to avoid a flea infestation is early detection; brushing pets regularly and checking for fleas; frequently vacuuming, especially carpeted areas and around furniture used by the pets; and regularly washing pet bedding and blankets in the hottest water possible.

Natalie continued, “For any flea infestation, we would always recommend contacting a professional pest management company.

“They are trained in flea control and will have access to a range of professional-use insecticides and tools which are not available to the public.

“A BPCA member company will be able to treat infestations quickly and safely.

“They can help minimise pest activity with a range of techniques and have the technical knowledge and experience to apply products in a safe and efficient manner.”

BPCA has produced free resources to give the inside track on the key issues, including a new guide, ‘Fretting about Fleas’ and video which are available to view at bpca.org.uk/fleas To find a BPCA member, use the Association’s online ‘find a pest controller tool’ at  bpca.org.uk/find

Six tell-tale signs that fleas are about

  1. Pets constantly scratching, licking or biting themselves may be the first sign

  2. 2. Seeing fleas or flea droppings in the coat of your pet (easily spotted in light-coloured animals by brushing back the hair, in dark coated breeds it may be better to comb the animal over a sheet of paper)

  3. The identity of the black specks may be confirmed by adding a few drops of water: if they turn red, your pet has fleas!

  4. Bites on you or other members of the household, usually around ankles and legs

  5. If you have been holding or stroking a pet, you may find bites on your arms

  6. And the most obvious sign of a flea infestation? Seeing them! When they aren’t busy leeching bloods, fleas can often be spotted jumping around on soft furnishings.

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