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Things You Should Know About Your Pets and Fleas

Three Lions, Getty Images

The higher than normal precipitation levels the tri-state area experienced this past spring will almost certainly translate into a huge flea season once the weather heats up. Here are some thoughts to consider regarding fleas and your pet from Dr. Robert Reich, Animal Medical Clinics of Quincy:

  • Fleas can be brought into your yard by outside/wild animals such as squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, etc. Some of the fleas on these animals remain in your grass and can get on your pet when it goes outside. Once fleas are present in an area, it takes a minimum of three months to completely get rid of them.
  • Fleas cause more than just itching for your pet; fleas can trigger flea allergic dermatitis. Amazingly, just one flea is enough to set off an allergic reaction.
  • Many pets are allergic to the saliva of the adult flea, which is injected into the skin when a flea bites an animal to enjoy a blood meal.  Allergy symptoms can include but are not limited to itchiness and sores on the rump, tail base, thighs, and lower abdomen.  In cats you may see itchiness around the neck.
  • If left untreated, flea allergies can lead to continued loss of hair and skin infection that can spread to other areas of the animal.
  • Interestingly, fleas are not limited to any one particular season; fleas can live in a variety of temperatures. This means that fleas and flea allergy dermatitis are actually present year round although fleas are usually higher in numbers the summer since they can reproduce more quickly in warmer temperatures.
  • Even if you don’t see fleas on your pet, they can still be present. Pets with fleas may groom themselves or bite/chew themselves a great deal more than usual.
  • Prevention is the best way to avoid these problems. Both topical and oral medications are now available.
  • Dr. Reich recommends caution with over the counter flea medications as some can be toxic to cats and may not be safe for use with children around.  Some products can also cause pets to have a reaction to the medication.
  • If you have a pet infested with fleas, be sure treat every pet in the house to ensure you are completely getting rid of problem. For example, if you have a dog and a cat in your home and the dog has fleas and you only treat the dog, the fleas will continue to multiply via the cat.
  • Fleas can cause intestinal parasites when ingested by a pet when they are chewing and/or biting at them.
  • Increased moisture due to excessive rainfall followed by hot temperatures can increase the ability of the fleas to reproduce quickly. Historically,  the biggest years for fleas have all been in flood years.
  • Bottom line, according to Dr. Reich: Prevention is key.

 

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