Flea Control for Dogs and Cats

Fleas can be really irritating problems for pets and their owners.

Created: 4/29/2015 Updated: 1/19/2024 - Shelley Audis-Riddell

cats, dogs, health, Health & Wellbeing, kitten, parasite, puppy, senior

Flea control for pets

Fleas can be really irritating problems for pets and their owners. Although our pets need regular flea treatment throughout the year, springtime often leads to an increase in cases of fleas. This is because our pets tend to be out and about a bit more as the warmer weather approaches. The OSCAR Helpline team are here to help you care for your pets with our flea advice.

What do fleas look like?

There are many different species of fleas in the UK. Typically, each species has its own species of pet to live on: cats have cat fleas, dogs have dog fleas, rabbits have rabbit fleas and birds have bird fleas. Your dog or cat may pick up another species of flea on their body, but those fleas will not be able to reproduce unless they reach their correct host. The most common type of flea to be found in our homes is the ‘Cat Flea’. Although named the ‘Cat Flea’, it is one of the most common fleas to be found on dogs and, unlike other fleas, it is able to feed and breed on both dogs and cats.

Puppy in its bed hiding its face in its paws

Apart from the dreaded ‘Cat Flea’, each species of flea needs its own specific host to feed and breed. Fleas have been known to bite and feed from humans but can only breed from their specific host. Fleas are small, jumping insects which feed on the blood of mammals and birds. Adult fleas are brown in colour and approximately 2-3 millimetres in length.

Fleas don’t have wings, so they cannot fly, but they do have very powerful hind legs that enable them to jump - over eighty times their own height! This jumping ability helps them to move from one host to another, and their sleek body shape also means they can move through fur and feathers very efficiently. Fleas like a warm environment, ideally somewhere between 18-27 degrees centigrade. With a combination of winter heating and summer sun, fleas have the ideal temperature to be active all year round.

What are the signs of fleas?

  • Fleas need to live on our pets to survive. They do this by sucking blood from our dogs and cats several times a day. Sounds gruesome doesn't it! You may notice red spots on the groin, belly, under leg, base of tail and rump area of your pet. These are the places fleas like to feed from.

  • You may also see 'flea dirt' on your pet's coat. Flea dirt is faecal matter from the adult flea. If you have a dark coated pet, it can be harder to notice. You can use a flea comb to brush through your pet's coat to check for flea dirt. Or you can wipe a damp paper towel over your pet's coat which will pick up any flea dirt.

  • Pets that have fleas, tend to itch at the point where they have been bitten in order to relieve themselves. Some pets can develop a 'flea allergy dermatitis', which is severe itching of the skin. It is thought that the saliva of the flea causes the allergy. If you think your pet is itching excessively, then contact your vet for advice.

An adult flea is 2-3 mm in length.

What is the life cycle of the flea?

The flea is an insect and has four life stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult flea. It is only at the adult stage that fleas are noticed when living on your dog or cat. During the egg, larva and pupa stages they live in the carpet or on your pets bedding When the flea hatches from its cocoon, it then jumps onto your pet. The female flea can lay approximately 20 eggs per day and up to 500 eggs in her life time. Fleas can also live up to 90 days on your pet!

Long haired Tabby looking straight at the camera.

Flea treatment and prevention

They say prevention is better than cure and here at OSCAR we agree! There is no way of stopping fleas from jumping or climbing onto our pets, especially if they enjoy the outdoors. But don't despair - there are plenty of preventive measures to limit the chances of coming into contact with these creepy critters.

Beaphar flea sprays

A first-line response to treat fleas is Flea Spray. Our Cat Flea Spray will stop the return of fleas for up to 4 days. Because fleas can also live in your carpet and your pets bedding, it is important to treat your home as well. We recommend using Beaphar Defest 3 or Beaphar Flea Flogger as part of your flea management programme.

Spot on flea treatments

Longer term management to control fleas involves using Beaphar Spot On treatments for dogs and cats.

Spot on flea treatment for dogs

Spot on flea treatment for cats

Flea collars

If 'spot on' treatments are not for your pets, then why not consider flea collar?

Want to learn more about parasites in pets?

Check out our blogs…

Ticks: Facts and Myths

The Importance of Worming your Dog and Cat

Do you need further advice?

If you need any further advice, please contact the OSCAR Helpline Team on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email helpline@oscars.co.uk.