As families dig out their Christmassy throws once again, there’s a chance hundreds of fleas could be lurking on them.
Vets have warned that blankets left in storage for months could be harbouring flea pupae, left over from last Christmas.
The insects can survive in fabric for months, even when stashed in cupboards or in the loft.
And when the bedding is brought into use again this Christmas, the warm weather sees eggs laid last Christmas turn into adult fleas.
Families with pets are the most at risk, particularly if they put their bedding away without washing it first.
Hannah Newbury, who works with MSD Animal Health, said: “If used bedding is put away unwashed from earlier in the year and was used by pets as a place to rest when carrying fleas, the residual flea pupae can survive for many months in this environment.
“Flea eggs are extremely difficult to see and fall into the bedding from the pet as they are non-sticky.
“These eggs then hatch and turn into flea larvae and then pupae which can survive for many months.
“Many pet owners may be unaware of the dangers that putting unwashed blankets away can pose.”
Tips to prevent a flea infestation
- Check for residual dog and cat hair on bedding as this could indicate that there is a higher chance that fleas could be present.
- Fleas can leave behind visible droppings, so keep an eye out for flea dirt on bedding which can often look like a sprinkling of black pepper.
- Check your pet’s flea protection is up to date – at least 12 weeks of continuous treatment is needed to break the flea life cycle effectively.
She said any blankets harbouring eggs could cause an infestation in a home, as once the pupae are brought back into the warmth the ‘adult fleas are then stimulated to emerge’.
To prevent against any unwanted outbreaks, Hannah advised: “Before putting any bedding and blankets away ensure they are washed thoroughly – especially if pets have used them to rest on.
“It is best to do so on a hot cycle (above 40°C), as most insects are unlikely to withstand such temperatures.
“This, combined with a 5 minute tumble dry on a warm setting, will help ensure any flea pupae present on the bedding will be destroyed.”
As well as washing bedding, pet owners should also make sure their animals are treated.
Hannah continued: “To prevent household flea infestations, make sure your pets are treated with a veterinary recommended flea product year round as it takes at least 12 weeks of continuous treatment to break the flea life cycle.
“While many pet owners are extra vigilant with flea treatments in the spring and summer months, it really is essential to practise continual year-round protection to prevent a household infestation.”
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