Pet owners have been put on red alert as an army of fleas threatens to invade homes in Buchan over the next few weeks.
Warm temperatures and high humidity rates at the start of the summer, following one of the mildest winters on record, have created a perfect breeding ground for the parasites.
Pest experts fear any infestation could therefore be on a much larger scale than usual and are warning that homes with pets are most at risk.
Nigel Binns, of pest controllers register BASIS PROMPT, said: “The activity and behaviour of fleas is often very much dependent on the climate.
“Mild temperatures during the winter means that fewer than usual will have been killed off and, as they thrive in a warm and humid environment, they’re likely to be present in greater numbers than usual during the next few weeks.
“The population of fleas seems to have grown rapidly in recent years, but the risk of an infestation could be bigger than ever this summer.”
Fleas, known for painful bites that irritate the skin, are typically carried into homes by cats and dogs, either from encounters with other cats or having come into contact with wildlife such as rodents, foxes or rabbits.
They thrive on the pet themselves or can be transferred to sofas, bedding, carpets or rugs and will often breed at an alarming rate – the female flea can lay 40 to 50 eggs per day and up to around 1,000 in a lifetime.
Eggs can hatch in a matter of days in warm and humid conditions while adult fleas, usually only 2mm long, can live anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months if undisturbed.
Pets that are constantly scratching can provide the first sign of an infestation, according to Mr Binns.
He added: “That can be confirmed, in cats or dogs with light-coloured coats, by brushing back their hair and finding either fleas or droppings.
“In dark-coated breeds, it may be better to comb the animal over a light coloured bed-sheet or towel to highlight any fleas or their droppings as they fall. The identity of the black specks may be confirmed by adding a few drops of water. If they turn red, your pet has fleas.
“Bite marks on you or members of the family, usually around ankles or legs, often leave small red spots which are itchy. And, if you do have fleas in your home, you may even see them jumping on your carpet or furniture.”
Pets with fleas are likely to be uncomfortable but could also suffer an allergic reaction, contract a range of diseases or even be infected with tapeworm.
Those found to be infected can be given special treatments under the advice of their vet, but it’s important to ensure bedding, sofas and furniture, along with floors and skirting boards, are also cleaned thoroughly.
Mr Binns said: “Fleas found on pets are usually only a small part of a bigger issue, as the vast majority of any flea infestation is probably living in the house.
“Anyone treating their pet must be sure to treat their home thoroughly at the same time or the problem is highly likely to return.”
Basic precautions can be taken to reduce the chances of pets getting fleas:
Approved products can be applied to the pets on a regular basis, while areas frequented by pets, including carpets, should be vacuumed frequently.
Bedding, blankets and other items should be regularly washed in the hottest water possible (an Economy wash just results in clean fleas!) and it helps if gardens are kept neat and tidy.