Let’s talk about fleas! All animals that go outside should receive monthly medication to prevent flea infestations (one medication can be given every 3 months!). Our animals get fleas by frequenting places that are contaminated with flea eggs: your yard, under your balcony … in short, any place in which a stray cat, a skunk or a raccoon can go or get into. In addition to being a major nuisance, fleas can transmit to your pets and mainly to cats , the infamous tapeworm …yikes! Fleas can also transmit a blood parasite in cats called Mycoplasma haemofelis, which causes severe lethargy and anemia (low levels of red blood cells, the cells that carry oxygen throughout the body).
Fleas reproduce rather quickly, and they prefer to feed on animal blood. However, you are at risk to be bitten if your animal is infested. Flea eggs mature in dark, warm places, such as rugs or cracks in the floor. After maturing into adults, they jump onto your animal, feed, and then reproduce. After laying eggs, the eggs will fall back onto the floor and the cycle begins again. The best way to get rid of fleas is to treat your animal once a month for 6 months. There are many medications available. Once your animal is treated, the fleas start to die off and fall off your animal. The repeated treatments are necessary in order to eliminate all the immature fleas and eggs as well. It is a common myth to restrict your animal to one room in the house in order to contain the fleas. It is more efficient to let your animal roam free, that way the fleas (who are very good at hiding!) will jump on him or her and then die off. If you restrict your pet, the fleas that are hiding in other rooms in the house will have no animal to jump on but you!
If your home is infested with fleas, in addition to treating ALL your pets (if one pet is infested with fleas, then all your pets are considered infested), your home needs to be cleaned thoroughly as well. It is important to vacuum the whole house and wash everything the animal may have come in contact with.
Flea bites on humans tend to appear mostly on places where we touch our animals, and also on the lower legs and feet (fleas cannot jump very high). A good trick to test for fleas in your house is to walk around in white socks. The fleas can sometimes be seen on your socks.
To check your animal for fleas, simply part the fur and take a close look a the skin. The preferred site for fleas is the lower back, but they can be all over the body. An intact adult flea is difficult to catch, but very often we can see the flea’s excrement (flea dirt), which resembles little black dots shaped like a comma. You can rub your animals fur and see the flea dirt drop onto a white sheet of paper. Simply apply a few drops of water onto the dirt and rub it on the paper. If you notice a red streak of blood, this confirms that it is in fact flea dirt.
Prevention is always key. The Veterinarians at Lachine veterinary clinic recommend a monthly preventative for fleas. This can be combined with preventatives for ticks, heartworm and intestinal worms. The preventative is recommended for all dogs and outdoor cats, throughout the spring, summer and fall months from April-November.
Be careful! Certain flea/tick products with permethrin (applied to the skin), which are still on sale, are very toxic to cats and should not be used in a home where dogs and cats live together.
If you ever have any questions, do not hesitate to contact a member of the medical team of the Clinic (514-634-4190) who will be happy to assist you.