itchy puppy

Fleas is one of the things that can cause a pet to scratch

Fleas Fleas Fleas! Have you ever had a flea problem in your house? Genius creatures they are, from an evolutionary perspective, that is.  Each and every year they rear their ugly heads.   Really the warm weather we have been having these last few days is ideal for them (>9 Celcius).  Once they hatch, they have a week to find a meal.  After that though they can live for months, even a year without feeding.

So, fleas are insects with hard shells like shrimp.  Actually they really remind me of miniature shrimp.  They can be difficult to find and are nearly impossible to catch because they are super fast and are amazing jumpers.  Because they are so hard to find, sometimes we look for what we call flea dirt instead which is black dirt like spots.  They need to feed on blood before they reproduce and can bite up to 400 times a day.  Ouch!  The flea dirt is their poop which is digested blood.  You can differentiate it from dirt by the way it turns rust in color when moistened with a white tissue, or with the characteristic colon shape it likes to get.  I always look for fleas on areas around the tail- the area from the rib cage down is where the most blood vessels are on the body so that’s where they like to hang out

Females can lay about 5,000 eggs in her life and 50 eggs/day. And if you were you to see 1 flea, you can be sure there are many others waiting in the wings since the adult population is only about 5% with eggs, pupae and larvae comprising the rest of the population, waiting for suitable conditions to hatch.  This is why people can move into a place that has been vacant for months and find fleas- the vibrations of people moving around, turn on that furnace (in the heat of winter) and carbon dioxide emissions have stimulated fleas to hatch and look for a host.  Smart!  If there’s a dog, cat, bunny or other furry mammal, they can live on them, otherwise they will bite the human (especially young girls or pregnant women) but they do not live on humans.

As neat as they are, fleas are pests and they are not welcome in any home that I know of.  In addition to biting, making our pets uncomfortable by biting them and sometime causing allergic reaction and generally giving people the heebie-jeebies, fleas can also be a host for tapeworms- as if they weren’t already gross enough.

So, I am sure I have provided enough juicy details to make everyone itchy now.  So, how do you avoid them/get rid of them?  There are several Veterinary approved products that you can pick up from your Veterinarian. Some products come in liquid form which you apply on the back of the neck, and there are also chew options. If your pet has fleas and all in contact animals are treated for 3 consecutive months, nothing further has to be done to decontaminate the environment.  This means flea collars, sprays, magic potions and exorcisms are not required. Treating for 3 months is needed because that allows us to treat the whole population, not just the adults- because remember 95% of the population are eggs, larvae and pupae.  This will treat and prevent fleas for the time they are on the Advantage.  After that, your pet can still get fleas from other in contact animals, you can bring fleas (or eggs, pupae or larvae) in from the environment on your clothes or they can get it directly from the environment if they venture outdoors.  We are lucky here in Canada, really, because often times we get somewhat of a break from flea season in the winter due to cold temperatures.  In warmer climates, fleas are a serious problem year round where they continue to wreak havoc and transmit disease.