By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
As many of you are looking forward to a warm place to spend the winter, so too do the fleas in your backyard. As you head for Texas or Arizona, the backyard fleas are heading for your pet. Fleas are thermotactic, meaning that nature has given them the ability to jump toward a source of warmth.
We are now seeing the expected autumn flea migration toward our homes and pets. Dogs and cats often present with itching, significant hair loss, and — mostly in cats — a recent history of hiding as the fleas feed on their blood.
It is called a “flea bite,” but is actually a puncture, like a mosquito, wherein a small amount of salivary anticoagulant is injected to prevent immediate blood clotting, allowing the flea to easily suck up blood.
Following digestion, the flea eliminates a small black pellet of concentrated hemoglobin. Sometimes this is the only telltale finding on a pet as the fleas can be very elusive. These black specks, when placed on a moist piece of white paper, will produce a reddish halo as the hemoglobin diffuses out of the fecal pellet. This would not be seen with specks of dirt or sand.
A scary statistic is the ability of fleas to multiply on your pet and in your household. An infestation of 10 fleas can produce 90,000 eggs in one month if not treated, and a flea can live 290 days without a blood meal.
Most professional-quality tick products also contain very good flea prevention. Year-round prevention is recommended as fleas can live all winter next to a warm foundation, come to visit on a relative’s pet at Christmas, or migrate through cracks in adjacent apartments.
Prevention is always the best course of action, but once fleas are seen on your pet, an all-inclusive campaign of treatment should begin. Not only your pet, but the house, car, garage, and even the yard can be treated. This is not just a one shot deal as flea eggs and pupae in your carpet are resistant to treatment. Thorough vacuuming with immediate disposal of the bag and long-term protection on your pet will reduce the flea population over time, hopefully to zero.
A flea infestation on your pet is a frustrating long-term medical issue. Some pets may develop a flea bite allergy, which would require only a few bites weekly to produce continued discomfort. We have sadly seen such severe flea infestations that the pets are actually anemic from blood loss due to high numbers of feeding fleas.
This beautiful tree season is also flea season. Ask your veterinarian or veterinary technician if your pet is adequately protected and what professional products they would recommend. Let the war on fleas begin.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.