Dottor Paolo Mascaretti Dermatologo veterinario a Torino e in Piemonte
Dottor Paolo MascarettiDermatologo veterinarioa Torino e in Piemonte

Informations  about fleas and how to fight them

In dogs and cats fleas infestation causes a wide range of problems :


  • In animals may occur only a mild itch but often, if they are allergic to flea saliva, they develop a serious chronic skin disease. Flea allergy dermatitis is considered the most frequent skin disease of dogs and cats. Moreover fleas can transmit some diseases (eg Mycoplasmosis, Tapeworm).
  • For the owners it is possible, though rare, to be bitten by fleas (which, if have no alternative, "jump" also on humans) and of contracting the "cat-scratch disease" (whose agent is carried by fleas).

It is therefore evident the importance of proper prevention and treatment of infestations.
That, in some situations (eg. a single animal in an apartment) can be quite simple; in others, however (eg. the presence of several animals, large houses or with garden, presence of stray cats), can become very challenging for the owner. That's the reason why is very useful to know some facts about the life of fleas and the available treatments.

When you suspect the presence of fleas on your pet ?
In any dog ​​presenting itching and\or lesions in the rear half of the body (lombar area, hips, base of the tail, groin).
In the cat the front part of the body can be affected too.  It is easier to find fleas in short-haired body areas (eg. groin).
NB: not always absence of adult fleas on the animal's body, at a given time, means that it is not affected (especially in cats). We can also search the faeces (black dots  that, if moistened, leave a red halo) and eggs (white). The animal should be brushed with a fine-teeth comb.

Practical informations about flea life.
Adult fleas (5% of the total) live on the animal and feed on blood. Females produce 40 to 50 eggs a day, which fall to the ground and turn into larvae\pupae (95% of the total) that can survive up to 50 weeks > that is why it is very important to treat environment (home, garden , courtyard).
The eggs and larvae are found mostly in places where the animal lies down and spends more time> here we focus the environmental treatment.
Fleas parasitize dogs, cats and ferrets in the environment > so it is useless to treat only one animal and not the others.
Larvae love dark places (thus are located eg. in the deep part of the carpet or in cracks in the floor). They can not bear the excessive cold, heat or dry.

Informations about anti-fleas on sale.

  •   Anti-flea shampoos are not very useful because they only kill the fleas on the animal, that is a 

          small part of the total (see above) and have no effect thereafter.

  •   Spot-on usually have a good durable effect . They take an average of 24 hours to kill fleas. They must be

          applied on the skin, not on the hair.  Generally they must not be preceded\followed closely by a bath.

  •   Oral products  (tablets) act very quickly (within hours) and are useful when the animal is washed 


  •   Powders and some types of sprays last 3-4 days. They have to be applied all over the body.   They dry skin.
  •   Among the enviromental  products many are inactivated from direct light and therefore are not effective 

         outdoor (garden).

  •   Foggers (automatic cans that release insecticide in the environment) act only on surfaces (not eg. under the 


Informations about the active principles in anti-flea products.
Some anti-fleas can be very toxic (eg. Organophosphate; pyrethroids in cats). Young animals (puppies and kittens) and, in general, cats are more susceptible.  Attention must be paid also to small children and any small pet in your home (rodents, fish, birds). Always follow the product instructions and consult your veterinarian.

Summary of guidelines for an effective fight against fleas.

  •     All animals living in the same enviroment (dogs, cats, ferrets) must be treated.
  •     The treatment should be continued at least for the flea season (summer months) but, especially if  the            animal is allergic to fleas, you better extend it in winter too.  NB: it is a very common mistake make             single or occasional  treatments.
  •     In complicated situations  (typical case: garden house with dogs and cats going in and out) is  very                  important to  treat the environment >> Vacuum slowly and thoroughly rugs, carpets, sofas etc.

           Then destroy the bag.  There are also industrial products to treat carpets. Steam cleaning is not effective.

           Wash blankets, rags etc. at 60 ° C.  Treat the house with an enviromental anti-flea product especially where

           the animal lies down and in shaded corners: kennels, under furniture, porches, under the stairs, wood floors

           and baseboards, cupboards; in the garden under the trees, after having swept leaves (useless treat places in

           full sun). Remember to treat the other places where the animal is brought (car, carriers, vacation homes,

           Repeat the enviromental treatment after 10 days and then 3-4 months apart.

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Paolo Mascaretti, Dermatologo Veterinario a Torino