There are many myths about fleas and flea treatment for cats and dogs, today we address five of the common myths and attempt to set the record straight.
1. If my cat had fleas I’d see them.
Not necessarily. Fleas are so small, that you may never actually see them on your cat or dog because they have groomed and licked them away. Instead, what you will notice is your cat or dog scratching a lot, you may see black/brown specks of flea dirt especially around the base of the tail, chin and ears, and you may see evidence of skin irritation.
2. My cat lives exclusively indoors so can’t have fleas.
Fleas jump from one host to another and will happily hitchhike into your home on the back of your dog, or on a human’s clothes or shoes. Whilst an indoor cat has a lower level of exposure to parasites and other nasties than pets that spend a lot of time outdoors, they are not without risk, especially if you have other pets in the household or live in a flea-prone area.
3. I only need to treat my pet that is showing signs of fleas not the other pets in the household.
Unfortunately not true. Some pets are more sensitive to fleas than others so the outward signs are more obvious e.g. they’ll scratch constantly or have visibly irritated or flaky skin. If you only treat the cat that is constantly scratching, there’s a high probability they’ll be reinfested by the other pets in the household who are likely to have fleas, but are not showing the signs.
4. Natural remedies are safe and effective flea control methods.
Environmentally friendly products are increasingly popular and there are many websites that proclaim their suitability for flea control and prevention. We’d suggest you err on the side of caution when using anything that is not recommended by your vet. Garlic for example is often recommended as a natural alternative to killing fleas, but it’s also extremely toxic to cats and can lead to severe poisoning and death.
5. Pets only need flea treatment during the summer months.
Many pet owners stop flea treatment during the winter months under the mistaken impression that fleas are only a problem during summer. In Australia, our temperate climate and warm spring/autumn weather extends flea season to 9-10 months of the year, so flea prevention year-round is necessary. Fleas also thrive indoors where temperatures are warm and well regulated all year round.
Top image: Hisashi via Flickr