Cats and dogs will soon be united in a battle against a mass outbreak of fleas.
The recent Europe-wide heatwave that gripped the UK, followed by a period of heavy rain and flooding, is said to have created an ideal breeding ground for the insects, which could have pets up and down the country scratching at their fur with extreme vigour within the next few weeks.
Other possible symptoms include hair loss, spots and redness, with humans also a potential target for bites.
According to the boss of retailer Pets At Home, the tiny creatures will begin to make their presence felt among our furry friends well before the end of the month.
Chief executive Peter Pritchard said: “In about three weeks’ time, we will see a mass outbreak of fleas.”
The RSPCA says that pets can be hypersensitive to flea saliva and suffer an allergic reaction, while younger and frail animals could become weak or even die as a result of blood loss.
Pets that are infected should also be treated for worms, as flea larvae can become infected with tapeworm eggs.
Owners are advised to groom their pets with a fine-tooth comb to check for the potential presence of fleas, and to make sure bedding and other favourite sleeping spots are cleaned regularly.
Flea treatment can also be applied at home, but anyone unsure should speak to a vet for the best guidance.
The impending outbreak will be another summer challenge for our pets, with the record-breaking temperatures seen last month having resulted in a desperate rush for cooling products to help them cope.
Mr Pritchard said the demand saw sales at Pets At Home jump by 9.9% to £303.4m in the 16 weeks to 18 July – way up on the same period last year.
“Last week, we could not sell enough cooling products – cooling mats, cooling bottles, that sort of thing,” he said.
“We have to make that decision (to stock lots of cooling products) six months ahead.
“It’s always a gamble but we always buy heavy on heating and cooling.”
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