Why should we worry about fleas?

By August 16, 2016 February 28th, 2019 Uncategorized

What are fleas?

Fleas are small, parasitic insects that feed by sucking blood from mammals and birds. While immature fleas do not bite, adult fleas usually feed several times a day.

In most parts of Canada, the peak flea season is early August to early October.


  • are dark brown or reddish brown
  • have flat bodies
  • are 1 to 4 mm (.04 to .16 inches) long
  • are wingless
  • can jump up to 20 cm (8 inches) vertically and 41 cm (just under 16 inches) horizontally

Why should I be concerned about fleas?

Fleas are not just an annoyance. They can cause discomfort for you and your pet. In some cases people and animals can get an allergic reaction to flea saliva, which creates a rash.

In animals, fleas can cause:

  • hair loss from frequent scratching and biting
  • anemia (not enough red blood cells in the blood) in extreme cases

Fleas can transmit:

  • parasites like tapeworms
  • diseases like typhus

A flea bite creates a small, hard, red and itchy spot. The spot:

  • is slightly raised and swollen
  • has 1 puncture point in the middle

Flea bites often appear in clusters or lines. They can be itchy and inflamed for up to several weeks.

How do I check my pet for fleas?


Adult fleas prefer to stay on pets and only leave after feeding. Their eggs, larvae (immature fleas) and pupae can be found in and around where pets sleep.

During peak flea season and after contact with other animals, it is important to check your pet, your pets sleeping areas, dog houses, cat trees, and play areas for black particles the size of ground pepper, especially near the skin or your pet’s tail. One of the things the veterinarians in Markham use to determine if your pet has fleas, is a flea comb.  It can find and remove fleas, flea feces and dried blood.

How can I prevent having fleas in my home?

You can reduce the chance of fleas coming into your home by:

  • keeping cats indoors
  • inspecting your pet regularly
  • regularly mowing and raking your lawn to discourage animals that may carry fleas
  • repairing window screens and other places that unwanted animals can use to enter your home
  • covering sandboxes when they are not being used

You can prevent your pet from getting fleas by using pest control products made for pets. Most of these products come into contact with the pet’s skin. Speak to your veterinarian in Markham to determine which product is right for your pet.

What do I do if my pet has fleas?

If your pet has fleas you will need to treat your pet and areas used by your pet using both physical and chemical control methods.  To get rid of fleas on your pet, focus on the neck or tail, where fleas tend to gather.  Kill the fleas by putting them in hot, soapy water.The veterinarians in Markham recommend to clean you lift blankets by all 4 corners to avoid scattering the eggs and larvae. If an infestation is severe, replace old pet bedding.  You will need to wash pet AND family bedding every 2-3 weeks in hot, soapy water.  Next, steam-clean carpets and continue to vacuum cushioned furniture and carpets daily.  Ensure to clean around cracks and crevices on floors and along baseboards, where fleas love to hide, and eggs can remain dormant.  Lastly, make sure you check areas where your dog plays (like a dog house) and around doors and window frames where your pet may come in and out of the house.If the flea problem persists, contact a licensed pest control operator in your area.

What flea control products do I use?

Products for pets

Before choosing a product for your pet, you should ask your veterinarian in Markham about the best treatment. Veterinarians can prescribe products that are not available over the counter.

To determine which product is best your veterinarian in Markham will want to know if:

  • you have both cats and dogs
  • they are in regular contact with children
  • your pet is sick, old, pregnant or nursing
  • your pet is on medication or receiving another pesticide treatment

When using a flea control product:

  • Follow the instructions on the label.
  • Use the right product for the animal (the label will state if it is for dogs or cats).
  • Use the amount specified in the instructions based on your pet’s size and weight.
  • Do not apply to animals below the minimum age stated on the label.

Watch your pet for signs of a bad reaction and see a veterinarian immediately if you are concerned.

Products for the home

Products to control fleas in and around your home may require repeat treatments to kill the larvae and adult fleas.

Here are some things you should know:

  • Applying a thin layer of diatomaceous earth (silicon dioxide) causes adult fleas to dry up when they crawl over it. It is not toxic to humans and pets, but be careful not to inhale the dust when using it.
  • Using insect growth regulators, such as methoprene and pyriproxyfen, prevent flea larvae from becoming adults. This will break the reproductive cycle. These products do not kill adult fleas that are already present.
  • Applying insecticidal sprays with pyrethrin or a pyrethroid on cracks, crevices and as a spot treatment kill adult fleas and larvae.

When buying a product, look for a Pest Control Products (PCP) number on the label. This tells you the product has been scientifically assessed and registered by the Government of Canada.

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Dr. Ernst Marsig, veterinarian in Markham

Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Markham for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets.

Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic on the north side of  Hwy 7, serving all pets in Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966. We are your family vets for dogs, cats, pocket pets (rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skinny pigs, etc.), ferrets, and birds (budgies, cockatiel, parrots, amazon, cockatoo, love birds, conures, African greys, finches, canaries, etc.).

Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.

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