Many owners will have experienced that sinking feeling when they see their cat or dog scratching away and realise that they may well be dealing with a rather unwelcome flea infestation.

And although fleas have been troubling pet owners for as long as we can remember, it seems that this summer the problem may be particularly serious, with reports suggesting the UK is experiencing a leap in the number of these pests.

Although there has been no nationwide survey of the flea population in decades, the warm, wet weather we've been experiencing has provided a fertile breeding ground for the parasites and many people are claiming to have been bitten.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Tim Nuttall, veterinary dermatologist at the University of Liverpool, claims all the anecdotal evidence points to a rise in the number of fleas over the past five years and the last two in particular.

"It's almost all related to the cat flea, because the cat flea is quite catholic in its tastes," he says.

"It will live off cats, it will live off dogs, it will live off ferrets and it will happily live off people."

Not only do fleas cause your mutt or moggy to feel itchy and uncomfortable, but they can potentially spread diseases and result in infections, so it is essential that owners take steps to keep their pets protected this summer.

There are numerous products available over the counter that claim to tackle flea problems, including collars, spot-on treatments and tablets that can be mixed into dog or cat food.

However, it is always advisable to check with your vet before purchasing a treatment, as they are best placed to recommend products and they will know if there are any you ought to avoid.

It is also a good idea to ensure that your house it always kept clean, especially any furniture or bedding that your pet lies or sits on, as this is where you can find eggs or larvae.

So if you suspect a flea infestation, as well as treating your pet, also take the time to give your house a deep clean to ensure that the problem does not recur.

Written by: Hannah