Flea allergy dermatitis is by far the major cause of itchiness in Australian pets.
All pet owners need to accept flea infestation is not a social disease, it’s a fact of life for pretty much every Australian pet. And it’s important to recognise that fleas don’t live on your dog or cat – they only hop on to pets to feed. Fleas live and lay their eggs in dirt, in cracks and crevices of buildings and kennels, and frequently, in your carpet (a favourite spot). They can survive up to a year without a blood meal.
This means both your pet and your environment must be treated.
Flea faeces or “flea dirt” is often detected more easily than the flea itself. Check over your pet’s rump and back for tiny black specks of dirt (these turn red from ingested blood when you wash your pet).
Fleas are very annoying to the average cat, but to those pets that develop a specific flea allergy, a constant and painfully itchy dermatitis stays with them for life. These pets become acutely sensitised to fleas (specifically, flea saliva) and can develop a severe skin problem called flea allergy dermatitis. When feeding, fleas inject saliva with irritant substances into the skin. The saliva also contains an allergic protein. Pets with a flea allergy develop antibodies that react to this substance every single time a flea bites – the irritation is intense!
Allergic cats chew and scratch constantly, developing wheals, pimples, raw and eventually bald skin in specific areas: over the rump and lower back, the base of the tail and inside the hind limbs. Untreated, the skin becomes grey, hairless and thickened. Even kittens can become allergic to the flea, and the problem stays with them for life.
Treatment and control
There is a myriad of flea control products available – please speak with our staff, they can help you develop an effective flea control program to suit your cat. Some of these products treat other parasites such as ear mites, roundworms and hookworms.
Most importantly, some flea products suitable for dogs can be toxic in cats - please check before you use if you'e not purchasing from a vet.
Treating the environment
Ridding your home environment of fleas is critical! Prevention includes regularly hot washing your pet’s rugs and spraying kennel areas, using flea surface sprays and/or flea bombs (a combination is most effective) concentrating on areas such as skirting boards or under furniture. Engage a commercial pest controller in flea plague situations.