Flea season is upon us and while you may not be seeing any fleas on your pets, there’s a good chance you will see them soon if you are not using a proper flea preventative. Flea allergy dermatitis is the number one skin disease we see in dogs and cats. Fleas can transmit tapeworms, cat-scratch disease and worst case scenario cause death from blood loss in young or debilitated animals. Using monthly preventatives before they become a problem will help to keep your pets safe and parasite free.
Cats and dogs typically acquire fleas from their environment. After a female flea has a blood meal from your pet, it lays eggs on the pet’s fur. These eggs fall off into carpet fibers, cracks in hardwood floors and the furniture they sleep on. The eggs hatch into larva, and then eventually pupate. The pupae are extremely resistant to insecticides, freezing, or drying. The pupae will emerge as adults when they sense an animal is present through body heat and vibrations, and thus complete the life cycle. This cycle can occur as quickly as 16 days, but can take as long as 1-2 years depending on temperature and humidity. This is why it is so important to continue to treat your pets for at least 6 months after a flea infestation is noted.
While most flea infestations are marked by severe itching, skin rashes, and hair loss, fleas can cause more serious problems for your pets. Certain species of tapeworms use the flea for transmission. If a human or animal ingests a flea containing tapeworm eggs, they can become infested with tapeworms. Cat-scratch disease (Bartonella) can afflict humans who have been scratched by an animal’s claw that contains infected flea feces. This bacterial disease can cause fevers, headaches, and lymph node swelling. Rarely, if a young or old animal has a severe flea infestation, they can actually lose enough blood from flea bites to become anemic and eventually may die.
There are numerous flea medications available to the public these days. These medications can be topical or oral, and some may contain other medications for heartworm and intestinal parasite control. Some over the counter medications can be toxic to cats, so it is best to discuss the products you are using with your vet. Be sure to use preventatives on all the animals in your house or you may find yourself in a losing battle with flea infestation. The veterinarians at Green Meadows Veterinary Hospital can help you decide which specific flea preventative is best for your pet and your family. Call us at 614-846-9644 to set up an appointment or to discuss flea prevention.