Now that we’re deep into summer 2013, with rain, heat and humidity being predominant weather factors this year, there’s a little thing we should discuss. Fleas.
A flea biology lesson…
Actually while they are little themselves (only 2-3mm long), the problems they cause are anything but small. Fleas are small, dark brown parasitic insects that survive by sucking blood from dogs and other pets (and even people too). The adult fleas spend their entire time on their host. While feeding on blood from a dog, the female flea lays up to 50 eggs per day, which fall into the environment (carpets, couches, etc.). Here the eggs become larvae, and then the larvae become pupae. After 2 weeks to several months (depending on conditions), they emerge from the pupa stage as new adults, looking for their next victim, possibly YOUR dog. A few fleas can turn into hundreds in a few weeks, so they are definitely something you would want to prevent, rather than trying to eliminate them once they’ve become established in your home or kennel. Fleas multiply faster and develop most quickly when it’s hot and humid – just like it is this summer.
Fleas do more than bite!
Flea bites are bad enough, and large numbers can even cause anemia, especially in puppies. But fleas are also transmitters of other parasites, such as tapeworms, and they can cause a severe skin problem – Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). FAD is a severe skin allergy caused by the flea’s saliva that results in intense itchiness, fur loss, scabs, rashes, open sores, secondary skin infection and other issues. About 25% of dogs will develop FAD after exposure to fleas. Treatment can be prolonged and expensive – besides eliminating all fleas, dogs with FAD need to be on anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medication, as well as receive medicated baths, for an extended period of time, usually several weeks. Again, it’s something to be prevented rather than having to treat.
Can fleas be prevented easily and safely?
Absolutely! Gone are the days of using nasty sprays, powders and dips. Not only are these products potentially toxic (to us and our dogs) and inconvenient, but they don’t work nearly as well as newer flea control options. The best way to prevent fleas is with a once-a-month parasite preventative, in the form of a chewable tablet or a topical liquid. Topical flea preventatives are available for fleas only, or in combination with heartworm and intestinal worm preventatives. The monthly tablets are generally combination flea, heartworm and intestinal worm preventatives. Both types are convenient and easy to use, safe for our dogs and very effective at preventing and killing fleas. They are normally used from April or May until November each year, although in some warmer climates year-round use is recommended.
So don’t delay…
If you haven’t started your Frenchie on a flea preventative, it’s not too late to start now. In fact late summer and early fall (August to October) is the peak of the flea season in most areas. After a few months of heat and humidity the flea populations are much higher, so more fleas are looking for new dogs to jump on to. If your dog does contract a flea infestation, there’s also a pill available from your vet that starts killing adult fleas in 15 minutes. After that switch to a long acting monthly product and you and your dog are all set.
So they that we all know what to do about this little pest, let’s have a have a great, flea-free, summer 2013
Dr. Chris Murfin