Unfortunately, it’s very common for vets to see serious and severe flea infestations in the winter months. A survey performed by the PDSA revealed that there is a 20% drop in the sale of flea products in the winter months. Owners often believe that due to the cold weather, fleas aren’t a problem during the winter months. This is completely untrue. Fleas live on both our pets and in our homes, and so it’s completely possible for a population to survive in the winter months as they don’t encounter the cold. In fact, sudden dips in temperature can often cause severe infestations to emerge, as turning on central heating systems can encourage adult fleas to emerge.
Fleas are a real worry for our pets
Not only do they cause discomfort with their bites, but in high enough numbers they can cause serious anaemia due to the amount of blood that they will drink. In extremely young puppies and kittens, it’s not unusual for fleas to cause a life threatening or fatal anaemia. Fleas can also transmit worm eggs to pets, causing them to have upset tummies and weight loss. Although fleas don’t live on humans, they do bite and can cause sores and irritation. It’s therefore vital that the good quality flea control measures that your vet recommends are continued throughout the winter in the same way as they are used in the summer.
Your vet will be able to recommend the best quality anti-flea products to prevent your pet from becoming infected with fleas
It’s also important to remember that not only do fleas live on your pet, they live in the home too. If you are concerned that your pet may have fleas, it’s always wise to treat your home as well. Flea eggs will drop off the coat of your pet, and into the environment. Flea eggs love carpets, cracks in laminate flooring and are very resistant to changes in the environment. Obviously, in the winter, warm and humid houses are an ideal breeding ground for these parasites, and they’ll want to take advantage of your central heating!
Your vet will be able to advise you on good quality products to kill the fleas that may be a problem in your home. Bedding (both pet bedding and human bedding) shouldn’t be treated with house sprays as they may cause skin irritation. Instead, these items should be washed on as warm a wash as possible for the fabric.
It’s always wise to discuss flea prevention with your vet, rather than relying on pet shop strength treatment. Some of these treatments aren’t strong enough to tackle severe flea infestations, and so the problem may get worse whilst you’re waiting for the product to be effective. It’s also very common that pets are either over or under dosed when given pet shop products, as pet shops don’t insist on weighing the animal before administering treatment.
Don't be embarrassed!
It’s common for owners to be embarrassed about bringing their pet into the vet if they have fleas - please don’t let this put you off coming to see us! Fleas are so common and having them on your pet or in your home is not a reflection of how clean or dirty your house is. Any home can be affected, and your vet will advise you of the best way to tackle an infestation and prevent any further problems. Also, don’t be disheartened if the first round of veterinary strength treatment doesn’t seem to be completely effective. Most treatments can’t kill all stages of the flea lifecycle, and although all adults may be killed, fleas emerging from the resilient eggs may have to be treated again to ensure that they can’t go on to lay any further eggs.
Your vet will be able to advise you regarding how regularly anti-flea products should be used. It’s also important to remember that if you have more than one pet; all pets should be treated, even if you only see fleas on one of them. Most fleas seen by British vets on dogs are cat fleas, and so it’s important to treat all pets in the home. It’s often the case that pet cats bring fleas to pet dogs, as cats tend to roam across wide areas. It may be that you only see your dog scratching, but it’s vital to treat both cat and dog to ensure that they’re both comfortable and an infestation isn’t introduced into your home.
For any further advice regarding flea control, please chat to your vet, who will be happy to put together a comprehensive parasite control plan for all members of your furry family!