Fleas - The Veterinary Centre, Glasgow

Search the Site
Go to content

Main menu


Hot Topics

Hot Topic - Fleas and Ticks  


What are fleas?
Fleas are small, dark brown blood-sucking insects. They are fast moving and have powerful hind legs for their size that allows them to jump long distances. Fleas are parasites as they directly feed on the host’s blood but are also involved in the transmission of the common tapeworm in cats and dogs and also can transmit some diseases (for example, myxomatosis in rabbits).  

What pets can get fleas?
Cats, dogs and rabbits are commonly affected by fleas.  

How does my pet get fleas?
Animals pick up fleas by being in contact with an affected animal or infested environment. Adult fleas live in the animal’s coat where they lay eggs. These eggs fall off the animal and into the environment where they remain until temperatures are suitable for them to develop into larvae, this often happens when Spring approaches but is also seen when the central heating is switched on. Flea eggs and larvae persist in carpets and bedding until their final moult when they become adult fleas and can jump onto a pet of their own to start the cycle all over again! The entire lifecycle of the flea from egg to adult can be completed in as little as 12 days allowing large populations of fleas to establish in short periods of time!!  

How do I know if my animal has fleas?
Fleas are large enough to be seen with the human eye and can often be spotted running through the animal’s coat. Flea combs can be helpful to detect fleas as they collect adult fleas and flea dirt.  Flea dirt is seen as small, black/brown speckles in the coat and is in fact flea faeces – flea dirt can be differentiated from normal dirt by placing it on a wet paper towel – because flea dirt is essentially digested blood, it will “bleed” onto the towel when wet. As flea bites are itchy, animals often scratch themselves especially over their rump. Fleas can also cause itchy bites on people - legs and arms are common places to be bitten.
More severe clinical signs may be seen with heavy flea infestations (anaemia in young animals for example) or in hypersensitive animals where it can cause fur loss and scabbing.   

Treating my pet for fleas
Many products are available from your vet to treat against fleas. Spot-on preparations are popular due to their ease of use but sprays, tablets and liquids for adding to food are also available. There is an injectable product for cats that prevents flea infestations available for 6months. Please ask your vet for further information.  

We recommend the use of veterinary products to ensure efficacy and safety.

It is important to treat all in contact animals and also the house to rid it of immature flea stages. The animal's bedding should be hot washed and the car should also be treated if the pet has regular access to it.


What are Ticks?

Ticks are blood sucking parasites commonly found in damp wooded areas or long grasses during warmer and wetter times of the year. They attach themselves to their host animal using specially modified mouthparts. They are slow moving and feed on blood – as they feed they slowly enlarge and eventually can reach the size of an apple seed. For this reason, most ticks go by unnoticed until they have been there for a few days and reached a larger size. Once engorged, the tick falls off the animal and back into the environment.  

Ticks can cause local irritation when they bite and in warmer countries they are important in the spread of blood-borne diseases.  

Once identified, it is important to carefully remove the tick with tweezers or tick removing device to ensure all the mouthparts are removed too and not left embedded in the skin. Please seek veterinary advice if unsure how to remove ticks.  

Prevention is better than cure so if you walk your pet in areas that are likely to have high numbers of ticks lurking in the undergrowth, we can recommend products to prevent ticks biting your pet.

Back to content | Back to main menu