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FLEAS: Evil blood suckers that are not just a summer problem...

FLEAS: Evil blood suckers that are not just a summer problem...

They’re creepy, they’re crawly, and they can be a real nightmare to get rid of. Fleas are not just a nuisance, but they also pose animal and human health risks. They suck your pet’s blood, they suck human blood, and they can transmit diseases and cause life-threatening anemia. That’s why it is critical to protect your pets from these pesky parasites and keep the creepy crawlies out of your home. We are very fortunate for the beautiful weather we have here in the Santa Cruz area, but unfortunately the fleas take full advantage of it also. Many pet owners believe that fleas are only a problem in the spring and summer but peak flea season is actually late August through November and fleas pose a problem all year round.

Consider the life cycle of the common flea: The average female can lay 40 to 50 eggs daily! The eggs develop into maggot-like larvae and progress to a cocoon stage called pupae. These pupae wait several weeks to months for the ideal temperature and humidity to mature into adult fleas. That single adult flea you find on your pet represents about 5 percent of the total flea problem in your home; eggs, larvae, and pupae comprise the rest. Your pet and your home can be infested before a single flea is even found; and finding them can be tough, especially on dogs with long hair and on cats, because of their constant grooming. That’s why a one-time treatment for fleas isn’t usually enough — because you have to take care of all life stages.

Pet owners often discover a flea problem because of a pet’s severe itching, which sometimes is due to flea allergic dermatitis, a sensitivity to the flea’s saliva when it draws a blood meal. Flea allergic dermatitis usually progresses to a severe skin infection with severe inflammation that needs to be treated with antibiotics, medicated shampoo and possibly steroids. This particular medical condition can be frustrating and costly to treat, so proper flea control is the best prevention. The number one allergy in dogs and cats is FLEAS, not food or environment (dust, pollen, grass, etc…). No pet is safe from fleas and their bites, but not all pets are hypersensitive to them. This means severe infestations can occur without your dog or cat showing any obvious discomfort.

Treating all of the pets in the house, regardless of whether or not they are itching, is very important. Fortunately, there are many safe and effective flea preventives available today. Knowing what kind of product to use and how to use it is critical to the health and safety of your pet. Your veterinarian can recommend a product that is most suitable for your pet based on lifestyle and physical examination. Remember this mantra: when it comes to fleas, it is best and safest to prevent an infestation than to deal with the consequences!

Written By: Lindsay Swirble, DVM