Category Archives: Dogs

How to prevent fleas

Warmth! Rain! Spring! Fleas! It is that time again, my friends, that time where fleas emerge from dormancy and become a nuisance. While fleas are active all year here in the District Metropolitan Area, they can become a menace when the temperatures are consistently above fifty degrees. Let’s understand the flea life cycle and how to prevent these buggers from annoying you and your furred friends.

The common cat flea, which also infests dogs, has been around for millenia. Be thankful you live now and not millions of years ago. We have fossils of fleas the size of golfballs. Seeing as they have been around long before humans or even dogs, they know what they are doing. Our main goal is to prevent flea infestations. We will discuss flea treatment in a bit.

A female flea is capable of laying over six hundred eggs during her lifetime. Fleas may live anywhere from two weeks to eight months, depending upon temperature, humidity, and food supply. Their lifecycle is rather fascinating (well, I think so) and is important to understand when trying to manage their control.

Adult fleas lay eggs on a host (in our case, a dog or cat) and feed on the animal. Feeding means biting and sucking blood. Think of them as tiny vampires. They digest the blood and then poop it out onto the pet. They also lay egg in the fur, too. When the pet lays down to sleep, the eggs and the feces from the adult fleas falls onto the ground, be it a bed, carpet, leaf litter. If the temperature is right, the eggs hatch into larvae (grubs) and eat the feces from the adults. They grow and shed their outer skin several times. This is called molting. After several molts, they spin a small cocoon similar to a caterpillar, where they turn into an adult flea. And here they can wait for months. They want for the perfect time – where a hatching is triggered by vibrations of an animal walking by. And they are hungry! They then jump onto the passing animal and begin the cycle all over again.

Flea bites are itchy – and remember, fleas eat blood, so they bite frequently. The saliva triggers an allergic reaction, leading to itching. It only takes a few bites to cause some dogs or cats to be extremely itchy. Aside from the itch, they can also transmit tapeworms (if the flea is eaten) and a host of other diseases. While itching and fleas are the most common sequela in our area, they can transmit a host of other diseases, too, including plague.

No one wants fleas on their pet or in their home! While we have effective oral and topical flea preventives (to be discussed later), a bit of home maintenance can help, too. Vacuum regularly, especially the areas where your pets sleep. Fleas love carpet and slightly moist areas, such as basements. These are prime areas for flea eggs to mature. Vacuum then wash pet bedding on a regular basis in hot water. Once young fleas turn into pupae, the only method to eliminate them is through mechanical means – or let then hatch.

Vacuuming helps, but is far from sufficient. An array of products have come to the market, which prevent infestations and / or kill fleas on pets. Capstar is an oral tablet that rapidly kills any flea on a dog or cat. Its drawback is that it is a one shot deal: fleas can reinfest the pet rapidly. It can be used in urgent situations. Topical preventives have existed for over two decades, with eh most popular brand being Frontline. The medication floats within the skin oils of the pet, killing fleas for a month. Its efficacy decreases if the pet is bathed frequently. Its main drawback is that it is topical and may not spread over the entire pet. Some pets also have a sensitivity to the alcohol which suspends the active ingredients.

Seresto collars are effective for flea control. The collar can last up to six months and is worn at all times. The drawbacks are that the collar is a topical medication and the collar can be lost.

Newer generation flea preventives are oral tablets. These are effective for one month (Simparica, NexGard) or three months (Bravecto). The oral preventives are District Vet’s preferred method of flea control as their administration is easy and you can confirm that the dog received the dose! They are also highly effective and take care of ticks, too. In rare cases the oral preventives can cause tremors (shakes) in dogs. If observed, please tell your veterinarian. These clinical signs wear off quickly, but a different flea control should be used if observed. There is an oral preventive for cats, too, but we prefer a topical called Revolution as it also prevents heart worm disease in cats.

Fleas are here, but they do not have to be part of your home. Understanding how to prevent them is key to having an itch-free dog or cat. Should you have questions, please feel free to ask us or your local veterinarian.

Dan Teich, DVM
Medical Director
District Veterinary Hospitals

Identify your pet! Use a chip and a tag

Buster is lost in the woods. Felix ran out an open door. Blossom was spooked by fireworks. All are missing and their people are in panic mode. How do they get back home? Countless pets go missing each year, ten million dogs annually, as estimated by the ASPCA. Fifteen percent of households in a large… Continue Reading

Knee injuries in dogs: The CCL tear

Dogs are prone to many orthopedic injuries, but none is as common as rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL). The knee is a complex joint, composed of a number of ligaments and cartilage padded areas. When there is damage to the CCL, the knee becomes unstable, leading to discomfort, damage to the cartilage, and… Continue Reading

Why we ask for poop!

“And please remember to bring a fecal sample.” Whenever a client schedules a wellness or sick pet visit, our front staff requests they bring a fresh stool sample. We are not fascinated by your pets’ poop, per se, but are concerned about your pets’ well-being and the potential for transmission of parasites to people. That… Continue Reading

Diabetes Affects Dogs and Cats

Diabetes Mellitus Diabetes ranks high amongst chronic diseases in humans and pets. While most people know that diabetes concerns the amount of sugar within the blood, they are unaware of why it occurs and how it is treated. The disease in pets closely parallels that of humans and is treated in much the same manner.… Continue Reading

Lyme Disease – An Annual Invasion

Lyme disease Be prepared for an invasion. Not from across the ocean, but from little critters hitching a ride on mice: ticks. Each year the territory of ticks carrying Lyme disease appears to be spreading, and urban and suburban environments are ripe for the reason they spread: mice. While traditionally people have blamed Lyme disease… Continue Reading

Senior Dogs in the Winter – Keep Them Active!

Winter may be harder on senior dogs than the balmy warmer months of summer. Sure, it is cooler and we do not have to worry about heat stroke, but arthritis is worsened by the cold, their level of exercise decreases, boredom sets in, and there are routine winter hazards. The importance of mental and physical… Continue Reading

Canine Arthritis Management

The most common source of chronic pain in dogs is arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease. Arthritis develops with age in many dogs, but can also begin earlier in life in dogs with hip or elbow dysplasia or as the consequence of an injury. In a select few cases, surgery may be of benefit,… Continue Reading

Pet Insurance – There Are Benefits

As time has progressed, I have become a fan of pet health insurance. More clients are asking about the benefits and limitations of policies and we have seen a number of clients’ pets receive care that the client would otherwise have not have been to provide without an insurance plan. It is not a panacea… Continue Reading

Leptospirosis: A real threat in the city

A Real Threat To Dogs (And Their People) When thinking of disease hazards to dogs, most people are aware of rabies, parvovirus and kennel cough, but leptospirosis should not be ignored, especially in our urban environment. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that may infect all domestic animals, wildlife and humans. It may cause fever, liver… Continue Reading