Whats Buggin’ You? (Flea edition)

Sometimes our love of the great outdoors can come back to bite us. Due to increased outdoor activity and high levels of interaction with other pets, the risk of fleas is highest during the warmer months. These bloodsucking insects feed on mammals and lay eggs in their fur, transmitting harmful parasites like tapeworms, as well as causing dermatitis and anemia. Fleas also carry potentially fatal diseases like the Murine typhus and plague, which can also be transmitted to humans, endangering friends and family.

One flea can reproduce nearly 50 times a day, making it a substantial threat to your pet’s well being. Flea infestations often spread throughout your home — living in your carpet and furniture, and making them tough to eradicate. Unfortunately our “indoor only” pets are also at risk as fleas in the yard can hitch a ride on you, and set up residence on Fluffy once inside.

Fortunately, regular application of flea medication is a surefire way of keeping your pet free of these nasty parasites. Flea medicine comes in a number of forms including topicals, shampoo and chewable tablets, all of which work by killing existing fleas and preventing new infections by stopping their eggs from hatching. Unfortunately, many over-the-counter flea medications are highly ineffective and should be avoided. Be sure to ask the staff at SportsVet what they would recommend specifically for your pet!

But what if my pet already has fleas?

The majority of preventatives we sell at SportsVet will also start killing fleas (timelines may vary by product) once administered.  A product like Capstar may be given to your pet initially to kill over 90% of the fleas on your dog within 30 minutes and followed up by a monthly prevention regimen based on your cat or dog’s body weight to prevent infestation down the road.  It is also important to make sure all animals in the house be treated for fleas even if you are visibly only seeing them on one or two pets.

In case of a noticeable flea infestation in the home, products such as Siphotrol II Pest Spray can be used to treat your home, and we also encourage disposing of excess pet bedding, or at the very least washing the bedding (and yours if Fido likes to snuggle) in very hot water. The benefits of vacuuming cannot be overemphasized as a means of flea control. Vacuuming picks up all stages of fleas, directly reducing the population. It also removes dirt and spreads carpet fibers that can interfere with the penetration of pesticide applications . In addition, physical pressure on the carpet from vacuuming can trigger the emergence of fleas from their pupal cocoons, exposing them to pesticide applications.

I haven’t seen fleas but my pet is still itchy!

Did you know that your pet may actually be allergic to fleas? To be more specific your pet may be allergic to flea saliva.  When your pet’s skin develops a rash as a result of flea allergy, we refer to the condition as flea allergy dermatitis. Flea allergy dermatitis can cause mild inflammation or it can cause painfully severe inflammation. This inflammation combined with scratching causes skin abrasions which opens the door to infection.

Signs of a flea allergy include:

  • Biting and chewing at fur/skin – especially at the tail base, armpit, flanks, or abdomen
  • Extensive skin damage
  • Excessive scratching
  • Excessive licking
  • Hair loss
If there is an infection present, your vet may prescribe antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or topical medications to help your pet be more comfortable. Then it is time to get serious about flea control. Monthly flea preventive is a must as is combing your pet for fleas. If you have other pets, it is critical that they are on flea preventive, as well.  Flea bite dermatitis can be treated but the best bet for your pet’s health is aggressive flea prevention.  It is particularly important that those pets we suspect have flea allergies be placed on  YEAR-ROUND flea prevention as even a singular bite from one flea can have a profound impact on your pet’s comfort and well-being.
At one time, fleas may have been a problem many associated with poor and dirty environments, but the reality of the problem is that fleas can be a nuisance for anyone.  Unfortunately no one is immune to these pesky critters unless you are practicing prevention and treatment for all of your pets!

Author: SportsVet AMC

Welcome to SportsVet Animal Medical Center's veterinary blog! Every member of our team is dedicated to building, supporting, and maintaining positive and rewarding relationships between pets and their owners. Our veterinary focus is on enhancing life, optimizing function, and maximizing performance for every patient. We will periodically be posting about veterinary healthcare, helpful tips, important facts about your beloved pet, and every topic in between. Have a topic that you are particularly interested in, and want to know more? Contact us to request a blog post directly from our team!

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