Sydney’s summer is perfect for fleas. Temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius, and humidity between 70 and 80% mean fleas like Sydney at this time!
Fleas cause irritation, itchiness, hairloss and flea allergy dermatitis – a severe skin
disease due to an individual allergy due to flea saliva. Fleas can also carry a tapeworm that can infect your pet. Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common skin disease of dogs and cats.
Symptoms may be seasonal or constant depending on exposure.
Affected areas can be generalised but tend to be ‘below the waist’.
Understanding the flea life cycle is vital to instituting a control program.
Only the adult flea lives on the pet and it is extremely rare for pet-to-pet transmission of fleas. Instead, most of the life cycle occurs off-pet in select sites within the pets’ environment – these are a source of reinfection.
Indoors this tends to be carpets, wooden floors, bedding, under their favourite furniture. Outdoors they also prefer these darker areas eg. under the house, under decking, long grass and soil. These immature stages can survive for up to 6 months in the environment, waiting to reinfect your pet. Explosive problems in spring are due to elevated temperatures shortening the life cycle – considering one flea can lay 40-50 eggs per day it is understandable problems occur.
How do I know if fleas are the cause of skin problems in my pet?

Visualising fleas or flea ‘dirt’ in the coat of your pet, combined with compatible clinical signs, supports a diagnosis of flea allergy dermatitis. However in allergic/hypersensitive pets surprisingly low numbers or no fleas are noticed, due to their constant obsessive grooming removing most fleas. In addition, only 1-2 flea bites per week are necessary to sustain a flea allergy in a hypersensitive animal.
Intradermal skin testing with a dermatologist is sometimes required.
But I use flea control measures and they don’t seem to work, or the fleas become resistant!
Flea control can be extremely frustrating, but with careful and regular control it is possible. Resistance is extremely rare.
Failure to control fleas is usually due to:-
Environmental reinfection
Irregular application of flea control products
Failure to treat all pets in the household (don’t forget the cats! They do not show signs as much as dogs but play a very significant role in maintaining household flea problems)
How to control fleas:
Use flea control products on all pets in the household
Read/ask about correct ways to apply flea products, especially with respect to swimming/bathing. Check the shampoo you use does not interfere with the flea control product used
Treat all year round – stop the constant build up fleas in your pets environment and you will be prepared to prevent the explosion with warmer weather
Control the environment. Regularly wash bedding and hang out in the sunlight. Vaccum carpets and mop other flooring regularly. It is very important to move furniture and clean these areas too, as fleas prefer these areas. Block off access underneath the house and dark areas under decking. There are DIY flea control products for the home, or you can have a professional visit your home.
Please ask any of us at Gladesville Veterinary Hospital for advice regarding skin disease, flea products to use on your pet or in the home.