PET owners have been warned to be on their guard over a possible “flea epidemic” as temperatures soar this summer.

Pets at Home is calling on people to check their pets and homes for fleas as the hot and humid conditions can create the perfect breeding ground for the parasites to thrive, causing a “population boom of fleas.”

The warning came as temperatures reached 28C in Dorset earlier this week as a heatwave swept across the UK.

Dr Karlien Heyrman, head of pets for Pets at Home, said: “If left untreated, long term flea infestations can cause real suffering for pets - including dogs, cats and small furries.

“Repeated bites can be uncomfortable and itchy for an animal, sometimes resulting in hair loss or a secondary skin infection. Fleas may also bite humans in the most serious of cases - seeking regular preventative treatment is a sensible precaution for all pet owners.”

Pets at Home said that flea eggs develop into adults more quickly when the weather is warmer. In cool 13°C temperatures, this will take 140 days, but when temperatures hit 32°C, flea eggs become reproducing adults in just 22 days, with fleas laying up to 50 eggs* per day in these conditions.

The pet retail chain said the population of fleas has grown rapidly in recent years due to warm but damp UK summers creating the perfect breeding ground for fleas.

It said that this type of weather, combined with better quality central heating and insulation around the home, means the risk of an infestation is bigger than ever.

Fleas don’t just live on the pets themselves but also on bedding and other soft furnishings around the house. Pet owners are advised to ensure their pet’s bedding is washed regularly and they are checked for fleas and bites.

To prevent and remove fleas, Pets at Home has advised all pet owners to:

  • Regularly treat all pets in the household with a preventative flea treatment throughout the year
  • Check pet’s coat for fleas or flea droppings – brown or black spots
  • Treat homes, work places and cars with a household flea spray
  • Wash pet bedding regularly at 60 degrees
  • Clean furniture to help destroy fleas at each stage of their life cycle
  • Vigorously vacuum carpets, floorboards and skirting boards
  • Throw away the vacuum cleaner dustbag or empty the canister after each clean