Thursday, October 27, 2011

Your dog has fleas, and I do not think that you are dirty.

It is shaping up to be a terrible flea season.  In the last two weeks alone, I have seen more flea infestations than I have seen all summer.  This isn't a surprise to me, after thirteen years in practice, I know that fall is the worst time of year for fleas, but it seems particularly bad this fall.  The frustrating thing is that owners make it hard for me to fix their problem.  I think that it is because they are in denial, lots of people think that they can't possibly have fleas, or if they do, it can't be that many so they don't have to worry.  They must feel this way because they think that if they have fleas, they are dirty.  Nobody wants to think of themselves as dirty.  Here's the deal: having a pet with fleas does not make you dirty.

Maybe knowing this story will help make you feel better.  In January, 2004 I was at home with my second infant on maternity leave.  While  we were snuggled up in a rocking chair with one of the cats on a snowy afternoon, I saw a flea run across her perfect little peach fuzzy scalp.  Yes, it is true.  I had a dog and two cats that had received the usual flea treatments throughout the summer and like most people, I got lazy in November or so as the temperatures dropped and the holidays began.  I was able to fix the problem, but that is because I didn't say to myself..."Hmmm, that couldn't have been a flea, it is January and my house is clean, I just washed the sheets and vacuumed like I do every week." 

I had a flea on my head when I was a baby, do I look dirty?

Fleas are a pretty clever parasite, they have been around for centuries.  Don't forget, they are responsible for spreading the plague all over Europe in the 14th century, so while you are not dirty, fleas are and you don't want them around.  Some animals are a great host for fleas, they don't even get itchy with literally hundreds of fleas infesting their coats.  Others are allergic to the bite and will be furiously itchy with even one flea bite.  Those are the animals that it is hard to find the proof on because they fastidiously groom the fleas away, swallowing them while licking and biting at themselves.  If your animal is itchy and you and your vet cannot find the fleas or flea dirt, please just listen to the vet and apply some Frontline Plus or whatever  the vet recommended.  We are not making this up. 

Here is what I use to keep fleas from ever becoming a problem on my own pets:
On my dog Ozzie, I apply Certifect topically to treat adult fleas and ticks every month and I give him a Sentinel tablet every month for heartworm, intestinal parasites and prevention of fleas.  Sentinel has a chemical specific to an insect system in it that doesn't allow a flea to lay a viable egg, pretty cool.  On my cats, Peggy and Teddy, I apply Revolution every month.  If anybody stops mid stride to turn around and bite at their skin with their front teeth, I am suspicious despite our great preventative plan and they all get some Capstar orally a few times a week for 3 weeks, just in case.  The only thing that I don't do is use over the counter products, those can be very toxic, especially to cats.

Check out this website for some flea facts:  One adult flea can lay 50 eggs a day, in 30 days, with 10 fleas to start you could have 250,000 fleas in the house.  Pretty gross.

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