Fleas and ticks suck — in every sense of the word. They feed on the blood of a host, like your dog or cat or even you. And what’s worse is that as they feast…they transmit disease to your pets…or even you. Scary stuff!

To better protect everyone in your household, know your enemy well. Your knowledge and strategic intervention could save your pet’s life. This week’s focus is fleas – they’re more than just a nuisance. These insidious invaders can sneakily find entrance into your house from a blade of grass to your pet’s coat. Once they’re inside, extricating them from your home can be very challenging.

We’ll start with fleas…Did you know that a flea must be submerged under water for 24 hours before it actually dies?? Or that it’s nearly impossible to smash or squeeze them to death? They can jump higher and further than any other known creature – up to 7 inches vertically and 13 inches horizontally. Comparatively, that would be like a 6 foot man jumping 160 feet vertically and 295 feet horizontally.

An infestation has been known to kill a dairy calf. You realize a flea’s purpose in life by closely examining his body: his mouth is perfectly adapted to pierce skin and suck blood. He’s wingless, so he’s looking for a free ride and a host. The parasite quickly finds an unfortunate host that may transmit one (or more) of the following diseases:

1. Bartonella. These strains may infect humans, dogs, cats and rodents and are transmitted by a flea or tick bite. Cats with the strain can pass on Cat-scratch disease to humans. Bartonella can be diagnosed with lab blood work and requires treatment with antibiotics.
2. Flea Anemia. A dog or cat that doesn’t scratch could be hosting fleas – they’re just not allergic to the flea bites. Kittens, puppies and older dogs and cats are particularly vulnerable to the loss of blood that can quickly prove to be deadly. Your vet can test to see the extent of damage and the best approach for your pet’s health.
3. Flea Allergic Dermatitis. Pets with itchy or hot spots are allergic to flea bites. The best treatment is to rid the pets and their environment of the fleas.

Check your pets whenever they come back from a romp outside. Don’t presume an indoor pet can’t have fleas! You may not see fleas == but if you’re ever suspicious, take the time to comb your pet and look for flea dirt. (By the way, “flea dirt” is a nice term for flea poop, which is easier to spot than the fleas themselves.)

Vigilant prevention remains your best strategy. You’ll discover that there are many vaccines that may be appropriate and effective for your pet. Talk to us about what’s best for your particular area and your individual pet.