Fleas and Flea Allergy

Fleas season is upon us. Every day we are seeing dogs and cats with a flea problem, and it gets worse in the fall when the nights get cooler. Fleas are “heat seekers”, they are wingless, blood sucking parasites that can affect not only dogs, cats, horses, and most wildlife, but humans too. They are very prolific–a pregnant flea can lay hundreds of eggs. The eggs are resistant to most household products including alcohol and cleaning solutions. There are two types of flea problems: flea allergy, called flea bite dermatitis, and flea infestation (lots of fleas). Interestingly enough, some of the dogs and cats that have flea infestations suffer less that those with flea allergy. One flea bite can cause a dog or cat to have a serious reaction if they are allergic to the saliva of the flea. They bite and scratch intensely and can open their skin to secondary infection. In addition to hair loss, the skin is very irritated and sensitive to the touch. The dog or cat often can not sleep and become very irritable. You have to be very determined and diligent in the flea eradication process. The prescription flea products work better than the over the counter products. Topical flea products are applied to the skin (not the hair) 1 x each month. It is dispersed into the fatty layer under the skin and stored in the oil secreting glands. These products kill the parasites, inactivate the eggs, and kill the immature form of the parasites known as larvae. They break the life cycle of the flea. Vacuuming the entire house is a must, as it sucks up live and dead fleas, AND their eggs AND larvae. The bag should then be placed in the garbage where it will eventually be burned. Avoid the areas you have previously walked your dog and treat the outdoors with “pet friendly” insecticides. The allergy, if present, must also be treated. Don’t wait, see your veterinarian in the early stages and discuss the latest recommended products.