Fleas – They’re Back!

“ They’re here.” Ok so it’s not Poltergeist, but it is high flea season once again. We at District Vet have a particular hated of these critters that have been around since the time of the dinosaurs (don’t believe me, click here). Fleas crawl through dog and cats’ fur, live there, feed off of them and take pleasure in making more fleas on your pet. Prevention is key as eliminating an infestation is slow, expensive and frustrating.

Aside from being a general annoyance and gross, they can cause some serious medical problems. Most dogs and cats have some degree of allergy to flea bites (think mosquitoes and humans), many pets do not show any signs of flea infestation, but a significant portion of the pet population has severe itching and allergy responses, necessitating veterinary help. This causes damage to the skin, behavioral problems, flaring of other allergies, and intense itching. Fleas also carry bartonella, the bacteria that causes cat-scratch disease, plague (it is still very real and not confided to the Dark Ages), tapeworms, and a few other bugs to boot. It is important to keep fleas at bay. Let’s discuss how.

The flea life cycle is important to understand: Fleas are very efficient at making more fleas. The adults live on your pet and the females can produce 40-50 eggs per day. They feed on your pet’s blood, defecate on the pet and when your dog or cat lays own to sleep, their feces and the eggs falls off the pet. Soon the eggs hatch into larvae (maggots) and they feed on the feces from the adults. Gross, but true. When they are fat enough, they form a cocoon and over the course of several months (or more, if conditions are not ideal), turn into adults. And then they hatch and seek out a new – or the current – pet to feed upon.

Fleas are notoriously difficult to find. Your pet, especially cats, can have an infestation without you ever knowing it. While it is obvious to think that indoor / outdoor pets are at risk for fleas, strictly indoor pets are far from safe. Consider this – you find flying insects and other bugs in your domicile all the time, why not fleas? They readily can hitch a ride in on your pats, shoes, a neighbor’s dog, your other et that goes outside, and don’t’ forget that they can simply seek out your pet on their own. Remember the dinosaurs above. They know how to survive.

We will talk prevention today – discussing eliminating an infestation is for another day. For low-risk indoor cats that do not live with indoor / outdoor pets (dogs or cats) and do not live in ground-floor housing, we recommend using Revolution topically at least twice per year. If they go outdoors, we use it monthly, year-round. If in a house with a dog or indoor / outdoor cat, we recommend it be used at least four times per year. Revolution kills fleas and also prevents heartworm disease, which can be fatal to cats. Although there are other flea products on the market, we have found Revolution to be the safest, most effective and easiest to use. We have Revolution a the hospital and have a promotion where you get one dose free for every three doses purchased.

As for dogs we have changed from topical products to Nexgard – an oral chew. It’s active ingredient rapidly kills fleas (ticks, too) and has proven very effective and safe. And since it is oral, there’s no topical mess and you don’t have to worry about the dog getting a bath or swimming. Brian, The Dog, uses Nexgard. There is also a promotion for NExGard when coupled with Heartgard Plus.
Please keep fleas at bay. They’re gross and can have negative consequences for your furry friends.

dt,dvm
© District Veterinary Hospital, 2015