There are several species of flea in Western Australia (WA) which feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. These small wingless insects have long legs which enable them to jump up to 300mm to reach a host. Fleas can transmit disease and the best known example is the plague, spread by the rat flea. Fleas, however, are not generally associated with disease transmission in Australia, although they can be responsible for the spread of tapeworm in pets and in humans. Animals being treated for fleas should also be treated for tapeworm.
Regularly check a pet’s belly and necks for signs of flea activity. If fleas are not obvious comb the pet’s fur with a lice comb at the base of the tail and wipe the comb on a piece of white moist tissue. Fleas consume relatively large amounts of blood and if the tissue stains red, it is a sign of fleas.
Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD)
Apart from flea bites, cats and dogs can suffer secondary symptoms caused by a hypersensitivity to flea saliva.
The most affected areas on the host are those where most fleas locate and feed. These are the back, inner thighs and lower abdomen. The affected animals display discrete crusted papules in these areas, causing discomfort. The scratching, biting and rubbing exacerbate the dermatitis. Instigate a thorough flea control program.