PET owners are facing a “flea epidemic” as the mild winter and sweltering spring are causing the parasites to thrive.

According to Highams Park vet Dr Hermann Heyl, dog and cat lovers need to be vigilant about the threat posed by the crawling critters.

He says the muggy, sometimes damp weather means that fleas are multiplying in the region.

The clinical director at The Vet, in Circular Point, Highams Park, said he has seen a threefold increase in flea-infested animals coming into his practice in the last month alone.

He explained: “It’s noticeably worse this year than in previous years, purely because the climate has been so mild.

“And not only that, we’re also witnessing a lot of more of the allergic skin conditions in animals that are associated with fleas.

“It’s vitally important that pet owners are vigilant right now.”

He said: "Extremes of temperatures will typically kill fleas and their eggs.

But we’ve had a really mild winter, followed by an unseasonably warm spring, and a muggy, humid start to summer.

“And that means fleas are in their element as they reach epidemic levels.

Dr Heyl is now offering free flea checks for anyone who stops by his surgery.

He added: “Once your animal has had fleas, there’s probably eggs in your carpets, your sofas, your long curtains, and even your bed, which can be off-putting to say the least.

“We’d advise people to spray their homes with a good, legitimate anti-flea treatment, which you can pick up from a veterinary clinic.”

In severe cases, flea infestations can even cause anaemia, especially in young puppies and kittens.

If fleas are ingested during grooming they can transmit tapeworm to the pet.