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Flea control is a subject that our clients often ask questions about. This is not really surprising since fleas are a widely seen problem and the most common cause of skin disease in dogs. Any animal which goes outside is likely to pick up fleas from the environment. Wall-to-wall carpeting and central heating provide the optimum environment for fleas to develop, and all dogs and cats are therefore at some risk. Adult fleas can live for several weeks on a dog, biting and sucking blood up to 10 times a day, and laying as many as 300 eggs a week! It is not always appreciated that whilst adult fleas may spend long periods on our pets, 95% of the flea life cycle, including all the egg and larval stages, take place in the pet’s environment, i.e. your home!

Signs of your dog having fleas may be an obvious sudden itch as the flea bites, or you may notice your dog spending more time grooming, particularly just above his or her tail. The adult fleas are red-brown, about 2 – 3 mm long and move very fast! Generally your pet would need to be infested before you would actually see a flea. More commonly, the flea droppings, or flea dirts are noticed first, normally in the lighter coloured parts of your dog’s coat; these appear as black specks close to the skin, and will weep the red-brown colour of digested blood when left on wet cotton wool or paper.

Since such a large part of the fleas’ life cycle is spent in the dog’s environment, it is essential to treat both your dog and your house to prevent and treat flea infestation. As always, prevention is better than cure.

Treating your dog

It will never be possible to stop fleas jumping onto dogs whilst they are outside, but by treating your pet regularly, you can ensure that the fleas are rapidly killed. This stops your pet from suffering the unpleasant bites and bloodsucking from these insects, and should prevent a build-up of flea eggs and larvae in your home. Many products are available. We recommend Advocate.

Advocate - Advocate is a spot-on treatment which you apply monthly to the skin on the back of your dog's neck. It is absorbed into the tissues and will kill fleas within a few hours of them biting your dog, as well as rendering them sterile in the meantime, thus breaking the flea life cycle. In addition to preventing flea infestations Advocate is also effective in the treatment of Sarcoptes (Fox Mange), ear mites and roundworms - reducing the need for tablet de-worming to once a year. Advocate is the only licensed product to protect your pet from Lungworm, the potentially fatal disease recently emerging in Biggin Hill.

Treating your home

Numerous sprays and powders are available for treating your home. We recommend Indorex, which lasts up to 12 months after a single application.

Your house should be vacuumed very thoroughly first, paying particular attention to the base of skirting boards, the cracks between floor boards, and under sofas, furniture and beds – all the dark areas that flea larvae are attracted to. The contents of the hoover should then be disposed of, outside of the house. All household bedding, human or canine, should be washed at as high a temperature as possible, and the whole house should be sprayed extensively. In a large house you may require more than one can.

In the case of severe household infestation, it may be necessary to call in the council’s environment department, to fumigate the house.

Most environmental flea treatments are toxic to birds and fish, so these must be removed from the rooms prior to spraying.