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Fleas - signs and management


The adult fleas we see on our pet represent only 5% of the whole population in the home environment.

Fleas can be a serious problem to both dogs and cats. Apart from the obvious discomfort from flea bites, fleas suck blood, carry other parasites and can also lead to a serious skin problem known as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD).

Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common skin complaint we see in dogs and cats and is due to an allergy to flea saliva. ONE flea bite is enough to initiate the problem, so your pet may be suffering from flea-related dermatitis even if you think it has no fleas.

Flea control for your pet is important all year round.

Flea's Life story

The adult fleas we see on our pets represent only 5% of the whole population.

The rest of the flea population in the form of maggots and eggs live in the environment.

One adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day, these eggs hatch into larvae before developing into pupae in the environment.

The pupae develop into the flea adult, which then detects a passing animal to jump on and start the life cycle again!

Pets can pick up fleas from an infested environment such as within the grass, soil or carpet and generally from areas not in direct sunlight.

Flea problems can appear to come and go. This is because the immature stages of the flea (eggs, pupae) wait in the environment for the right conditions (warmth and humidity) and when this happens they tend to hatch all at once producing a large flea population ready to jump on to the unsuspecting pet!.

Signs of fleas


Some pets develop a severe allergic reaction to the flea saliva, and can develop flea allergy dermatitis with only ONE flea bite. Some pets may harbour large numbers of fleas and show minimal signs of discomfort.

Common signs of flea infestation and flea allergy dermatitis:

  • Flea faeces in fur
  • Fleas can sometimes be seen running through your pets fur
  • Scratching, licking, chewing
  • Overgrooming in cats
  • Hair loss and dermatitis - often around the rump and base of the tail
  • Scabbing
  • Reddened or thickened skin


Managing fleas can be frustrating and requires a long-term management plan. The key to successful management is persistence and consistency in treating the pet/s and the environment.

Tips to help manage and prevent a flea infestation:

  • Control the immature stages in the environment- this is very important
  • Kill the adult fleas on your pet/s
  • Treat all pets in the household even if they dont appear to have fleas
  • Follow product instructions for application and usage i.e. monthly
  • Maintain flea control all year round-prevention is better than cure
  • Make sure the pets are receiving the correct product for weight and pet
  • Keep the environment clean such as between tile cracks and paving
  • Reduce fleas by staying away from flea areas (under the house, under cool, shady trees)
  • Vacuum regularly to remove immature flea stages from the environment
  • Wash pet bedding, blankets in water greater than 60ºC for 10 minutes to kill any immature flea stages
  • Place rugs, cushions, doormats in direct sunlight weekly to kill immature flea life stages
  • Check your pet's coat regularly for fleas
  • For pets that swim daily, talk to us about effective flea control options

Flea Products

There are an array of different flea products available, and this can be quite confusing. Each situation is different, so it is important to discuss with us the different preventative and treatment options that can be best tailored to you and your pet's needs.  

These come in the form of:

  • chewabale tablets
  • topical spot-ons

There are also several combination products available to treat fleas, intestinal parasites, worms and heartworm.

Be aware that flea collars, powders and shampoos will NOT be effective in controlling a flea problem, as they do not provide sustained control for a long enough period.

Homepage header image by Cara Dione Photography