Its 5 a.m. and the jingle of the collar tag is just beginning. The occasional itching, scratching and tail biting you noticed last week has spread to fervor. It’s beginning to sound like Christmas in July, but June has only begun.
You decide to take a look and notice little black specks covering your dog like poppy seeds on a muffin.
“Eureka!” you exclaim, as you grasp the little bugger between your fingertips.
But what exactly is the culprit behind the mayhem? Fleas!
Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common hypersensitivity skin disorder seen in dogs and cats. The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is the most common flea found on both dogs and cats. Adult fleas spend most of their life cycle on the animal where they can begin producing eggs in as little as 24 hours. Eggs of fleas are found in the environment (toys, bedding, carpets) and thrive in warm, moist conditions. Summer and Fall are the peak seasons for flea infestations.
The entire flea life cycle can occur in as little as two weeks. In just 30 days, a flea can produce up to 500 eggs.
Animals with fleas display classical symptoms. Excessive pruritis (itching) is the most common clinical sign observed by owners. Crusting, bumps, and hair loss may appear on the back, thighs, abdomen and neck where high densities of fleas are located.
To diagnose, your veterinarian will run a flea comb through the fur to look for flea dirt (excrement) or the flea itself.
Prevention is key and there are many drugs currently on the market. Dips, sprays, collars, topical and injectable medicines are available in a variety of prices and application frequency to match all budgets and lifestyles.
Although over-the-counter (OTC) flea treatments are available, they have variable success rates and the most effective flea treatments are found at your veterinary hospital. Your veterinarian will select the best medicine for your pet based on age, weight, breed, and severity.
Home remedies – such as brewer’s yeast, garlic, sulfur, thiamine, eucalyptus extracts, and electronic flea collars -- have been proven ineffective and should not be used as flea repellent.
Treating the pet is the first step in ridding your life of fleas, but you must also treat the environment. Vacuum carpets, wash toys and and bedding and have a professional exterminator treat your home and yard.
Flea pupa can lay dormant in the environment for months, so it is important to kill the immature stages of the flea as well.
All animals entering your home should be on flea prevention medication. Newly acquired or visiting animals should be confirmed flea negative before being cohoused with existing pets.
Following these steps will help your pet live a flea-free life.
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