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VET TALK: Itchy cat Daisy found to have fleas – here's what to do

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Sometimes action needs to be taken immediately.
Sometimes action needs to be taken immediately.

Daisy was a beautiful, long-haired cat brought into the clinic as her owners had noted her scratching herself repeatedly, and it was mentioned she was becoming quite irritable and grumpy to handle.

Daisy had fleas. After combing her carefully, the offending fleas and tell-tale flea dirt were found on the flea comb used. She had also developed some raised and inflamed scabs: secondary dermatitis lesions over her neck and head area.

A Spot On treatment was applied, to be repeated regularly now throughout the year. Daisy also needed treatment for the dermatitis lesions, and her owners’ home also treated for fleas.

With autumn now giving way to winter, central heating is back on and it is at this time of year we need to be very aware of fleas and preventative treatments for all our pets.

Fleas are the most common external parasite in our pets. They live for seven to 14 days, living and feeding on your pet, with the females then jumping off to lay up to 50 eggs a day in your carpets and soft furnishings. The larvae then hatch and burrow into the same. Centrally heated homes with fitted carpets provide the perfect conditions for fleas to infest your home all year round.

The most obvious symptom of infestation is your cat scratching a lot. Also, if you see little black specks on wetted paper or cotton wool, that leach into reddish blotches, then you have found flea dirt.

Treat immediately.

If your cats go outside, they will be meeting other cats, who may already have fleas. Also, if they hunt or roam further afield, rabbit and hedgehog fleas can also live on cats. Further, if you have bought any second-hand soft furnishings, they could come already with the offending flea eggs harboured inside.

If you have just moved into a new house, flea eggs could be in the carpets from previous pet owners.

If you, or a family member, work anywhere with or around animals, you could be bringing unwanted flea visitors home with you.

If you find fleas and flea dirt on your cat, treat the cat and deal with potential fleas and flea eggs in your household.

Consult your veterinary practice about the best treatments for your cats, any other pets, and for your furnishings.

There are several effective treatments to choose from. Spot On and oral treatments are available tailored to your pets’ species, age and weight.

If fleas have been found on your pets, to prevent fleas becoming well established within your home, it is always essential to also treat your home, cat baskets and any pet sleeping areas, indoors and out and to vacuum all carpets and soft furnishings to get rid of any fleas and eggs.

Remember the garage and outbuildings where cats may find a cosy bed, and car furnishings if they have travelled to the vets or a boarding cattery.

It is much better, however, to avoid and prevent a household flea infestation in the first place, by having a regular year-round flea treatment in place, and do this for all your household pets.

WARNING: Never use a dog flea product on your cat as these can be extremely toxic to cats.

For good professional advice on flea prevention and treatments for your pets, contact your veterinary practice.

Alison Laurie-Chalmers is a senior consultant with Crown Vets in Inverness.

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