As the central heating dial is turned up across the UK, experts are warning pet owners about the increased risk of fleas in warm households.
New research, carried out by Bayer Animal Health for its ‘Home Invaders’ campaign, has shown that a third of pet owners are unaware that switching on the heating in the autumn and winter months can lead to an increase in flea infestations.
Parasitologist Ian Wright from the European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites (ESCCAP) UK and Ireland says: “As long as the humidity remains over 75 per cent and temperatures don't exceed 30°C then for fleas, the warmer the better. Fleas can complete their life cycle in less than 3 weeks at 29 °C so the warmer the house is, the faster they will reproduce up to that point. It should also be said, that fleas can still breed at 17 °C, just at a slower rate.”
According to the research, more than a third of pet owners turn up their heating in the autumn and winter months to between 21°C and 25°C, providing an optimum temperature for fleas to breed in. The study also revealed that one in 10 pet owners have noticed fleas on their pet and in the house during autumn and winter months, indicating they are not seeking preventative treatment at this key time of year.
It is estimated that 95 per cent of the flea population in a home can be found within carpets and soft furnishings, which is perhaps no surprise when almost half of owners admit sharing a bed with their pet and three quarters allow their cats to sleep on their sofa.
Furthermore, 27 per cent of pet owners seek parasite treatment advice online before going to their vet and 10 per cent only ever treat their pets when they see fleas. Worryingly, half of pet owners were completely unaware their pet had fleas until they were shown by a vet. Pet owners are reminded that while the web is a useful resource for gaining background information it should in no circumstances replace the role of a vet.
Paul Manktelow, Veterinary Surgeon, founder of Vital Pet Health and co-presenter of the Home Invaders documentary, says: “There is a high probability your dog or cat will have had fleas or worms at some point in their life but depending on the degree of the infestation you may not have realised how many live hidden away in your home. It is important to speak to your vet about receiving the right preventative treatment to stop these infestations.”
Richard Wall, Professor of Zoology at Bristol University, says: “Only 1-5 per cent of the flea population is actually represented by the adults on the pet and is really just the tip of the iceberg. The remaining 95 per cent is hidden in the environment. They may be found in a wide variety of locations within the domestic environment, including wooden flooring and car upholstery.”
‘Home Invaders’ is a national campaign which is shining a light on the fleas and intestinal worms that live on our pets and in our homes, and is part of Bayer Animal Health’s wider ‘It’s a Jungle Out There’ parasite protection initiative. You can help spread the word and find out if your pet and family could be at risk, by following the conversation at www.facebook.com/jungleforpets or by following ‘JungleForPets’ on Twitter. You can also watch the Home Invaders documentary at www.itsajungle.co.uk