NEW Forest nature expert Chris Packham has urged pet owners and vets in the sough east to take part in the UK’s largest every study of fleas.

Scientists are trying to better understand the hidden disease risks they carry and the importance of effective flea control.

Launched in April, The Big Flea Project, in partnership with the University of Bristol, will analyse thousands of flea samples submitted voluntarily by vet practices from across the country.

The project aims to revolutionise the way that fleas are understood and treated by pet owners and vets.

Vets will be conducting random inspections using flea combs to see whether they are present on the animal, and will then collect samples from any affected dogs and cats.

Chris said: “Fleas are often seen as more of a nuisance than anything else but they can cause intense suffering for a pet.

“Cats, dogs and other pets can develop serious health conditions, which can prove fatal in some cases.

“We want as many pet owners and veterinary practises as possible involved in this study and I hope they’ll be itching to take part.

“The project promises to provide some real insights into the hidden diseases that fleas carry and highlight the importance of keeping this issue under control.

“The scientists can learn more about flea infestations in our homes and how to prevent these parasites from harming our pets.”