PET owners have been put on red alert as an army of fleas threatens to invade homes over the next few weeks.

Warm temperatures and high humidity rates throughout the county has created a perfect breeding ground for the parasites, according to pest experts.

Residents are being urged to take extra precautions in the coming weeks as any infestation is likely to be on a much larger scale than usual.

Nigel Binns, of pest controllers register Basis Prompt, said: “Mild temperatures during the winter means that fewer than usual will have been killed off and, as they thrive in a warm and humid environment, they’re likely to be present in greater numbers than usual during the next few weeks.

“The risk of an infestation could be bigger than ever this summer.”

Fleas, known for painful bites that irritate the skin, are typically carried into homes by cats and dogs, from with wildlife such as rodents, foxes or rabbits, and can easily be transferred to sofas, beds, carpets or rugs.

Once there, fleas can breed at an alarming rate of 40 to 50 eggs a day and can live anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months if undisturbed.

Pets that are constantly scratching often provide the first sign of an infestation.

“That can be confirmed, in cats or dogs with light-coloured coats, by brushing back their hair and finding either fleas or droppings,” said Mr Binns.

“In dark-coated breeds, it may be better to comb the animal over a light-coloured bed-sheet or towel to highlight any fleas or their droppings as they fall.

“The identity of the black specks may be confirmed by adding a few drops of water. If they turn red, your pet has fleas.”

Owners should also be on the lookout for red, itchy bite marks on their or their family members ankles and legs.

Pets with fleas are likely to be uncomfortable but could also suffer an allergic reaction, contract a range of diseases, or even be infected with tapeworm.

Mr Binns said: “Fleas found on pets are usually only a small part of a bigger issue, as the vast majority of any flea infestation is probably living in the house.

“Anyone treating their pet must be sure to treat their home thoroughly at the same time or the problem is highly likely to return.”

Basic precautions can be taken to prevent an infestation including; washing bedding and blankets in the hottest wash, hoovering regularly, and using approved products on pets.

Anyone who does discover an infestation should call a professional pest control company immediately.