Flea outbreaks
Flea outbreaks

Get up to scratch on pets' health

AS AUSTRALIA swings into another La Nina weather event, Queenslanders are being reminded about the importance of guarding against parasitic insects that can spread from pets to people.

About 21% of all notifiable diseases in Australia are zoonotic, meaning that they are transmitted from animals to people.

"While potentially deadly animal-borne pathogens like hendra virus grab the headlines, the reality is that the most likely nasties people are going to come into contact with are from biting parasites, like fleas and ticks that can plague their pets," University of Sydney entomologist Cameron Webb said.

Dr Webb said fleas loved warm and moist conditions, so with another La Nina weather pattern predicted, a bumper parasite season could be on the way.

"Fleas love humid and warm weather and it is expected that during the coming summer, flea populations will thrive," he said.

With 63% of Australian households owning a pet, Dr Webb believes cat and dog owners should be aware of the risk of increased flea activity and what that means for their pet and their family.

"A flea may be small but it has powerful back legs that enable it to jump incredible distances. In human terms, it's like being able to jump the length of a football field," Dr Webb said.

"Fleas are not just a problem for cats and dogs.

"They are more than happy biting people as well.

"Bites most often occur on the lower legs and while the bites won't last more than a few days, they can cause significant irritation."

Bayer Healthcare technical services veterinarian Bob Rees said it was important to remember that fleas were only a problem for people because they shared their home with pets.

He said the best thing was to treat your pets with a product that killed juvenile and adult fleas, and stopped them from biting. It was also important to treat areas where your pet moved about, such as its bedding.

"Pets are such an important part of our family and that relationship shouldn't be marred by a bout of fleas. Prevention is obviously the best approach," Dr Rees said.