Furry family members rule & springtime puts Health To Dos on top of our list. If little problems like fleas had crept to the back seat they’re calling “shotgun” now, after the Slight Annual Shushing of ‘colder’ months didn’t really beat them back. The house is flea free so far this year? Pets are sure to need your help now. Resistance is futile. Fleas are everywhere: any of our beloved parks, canyons or neighborhood walks or even in our own backyards. We bring them indoors & adult wildlife rarely die from fleas & so are sources of pet infestation & vice versa. Fleas will end up on virtually every pet.
Adult fleas live strictly on hosts: feeding & breeding happens here! Hopping from pet-to-pet readily, fur movement also sheds eggs onto shared sleeping & playing areas. Like tiny thirsty teenagers, flea larva lurk in dark crevices, bedding & sand. Optimized females lay 50 eggs/day & that’s 2,000 eggs/lifetime shed wherever the animal goes. Egg becomes larva, transform & wait in crevices for sounds, motions & breaths signalling new hosts. From hatchling to adult in as little as 2 weeks, the next generation springs into blood-sucking action. That’s a warm itchy recipe for springtime disaster. It stopped sounding like a teen vampire flick when they sprung into action though – whew.
Blood-sucking parasitism risks disease: flea allergy dermatitis, tapeworms (benign), anemia & infections. “Flea-nial” (not an Egyptian river) is commonly cured by seeing tapeworms (Sparkles isn’t South American? it’s from fleas, promise), Cat Scratch Fever, Murine typhus or a few scary albeit rare infections. But flea allergy dermatitis, not fatal but actual allergies to saliva injected during flea feeding, is an absolute misery for allergic pets & causes obvious skin lesions.
Still, finding fleas is tricky. They’re small, great jumpers, fast scurriers & hiders in dark crannies. Tiny dark specks on the coat (it’s flea feces: place on paper towels, sprinkle water, see red) may be your only evidence. Wash bedding on hot with bleach then a HOT dryer, vacuum up dust bunnies & under couch cushions, get between baseboards with a whiskbroom. Varsity players may need environmental control (powders, professionals, beneficial nematodes). It’s easier to use year round flea preventative on every pet, even if strictly indoors.
A myriad of topicals, orals, shampoos & collars beyond counting have durations of action from 1 day to 8 months. Some actually don’t work as well as they used to. New products are now available. It can all be pretty overwhelming in the face of an itchy pet or child. Products like Comfortis require an examination and its sister product controls fleas and heartworms, so requires testing (which we can do FOR FREE). We also carry Vectra and Vectra 3D and they are over the counter (no exam or testing required). The 3D product controls ticks, biting flies and mosquitoes in addition to fleas!
Plenty of products can be found over the counter in a variety of stores. Unfortunately, easy does not always equal best for you animal companion: efficacy & safety are incredibly variable. Unavoidable trade offs must be balanced: cost over time, kill vs control, toxicity or reliability. Consider the age & health of each pet, his or her housemate pets, kids & lifestyle. And I implore you: don’t use dog flea products on cats you like. As your local vet, I’m always happy to help you decide how you help your pet give fleas the Springtime Kiss Off.