This month's topic will be regarding fleas. Fleas are the most common ectoparasite in our furry friends and something that we battle here in Oregon year round. It seems that due to our relatively mild winter in the Willamette Valley, fleas have been especially active. They're eager to jump onto your animals outside to hitch a ride into a warm home. The outdoor environment (grass, bushes, etc) is the most likely place of initial flea transmission to dogs and cats. Wild animals like raccoon, possums, feral cats/dogs are outdoor reservoirs. Think of the outdoors as one big carpeted room, sometimes teeming with flea eggs, larvae and adult fleas. Bottom line is, if your dog, cat or YOU go outside, he or she needs flea prevention (not you the human, just the pets). Yes, fleas can hop on your clothing, get a free ticket to your home and wait for that opportune moment to start an infestation. Never fear! We can help prevent this! Treat your pets with an approved flea preventive once a month.
To give you a better understanding of fleas it helps to learn their life cycle in your home. A flea starts out as an egg (Which came first? Who knows!) on your carpet, in 2-3 days hatches into a larva. The larva 5-10 days later turns into a pupa. Then depending on weather, climate and the environment will emerge as an adult flea anywhere from 5 days to 6 months! Here's the key though, fleas NEED a blood meal in order to reproduce and make new baby fleas. So if they don't have a means to get a blood meal (ie. flea prevention treated pet) they can't reproduce and will die. Sad day for fleas, good day for our pets and us. For the visual learner here's a short Youtube video on the life cycle produced by Bayer Animal Health Bayer Flea Life Cycle Video
People get very frustrated when they are diligent about treating their pets for fleas, yet they still see fleas on their pet or in the environment. This is very understandable, I too get frustrated when this happens to my own animals. Sometimes it may seem the flea preventive is just not working, rarely this is the case unless the improper dosage was used or it was not properly applied/administered. The way flea preventive works is usually due to a compound that hyper-excites the flea's nervous system eventually killing them. Unfortunately this doesn't happen instantly, so if the flea burden in your home or surrounding environment is high, you may still have fleas jumping on your animal but later dying and falling off. Animals with flea bite hypersensitivity are especially affected because it doesn't take many bites to set the inflammatory cascade causing the itching, redness, and sometimes diffuse skin infections. Clearing of areas with high infestation as you can imagine can take months! This is why it is crucial that flea preventive is applied as directed every single month whether or not you "see" fleas. Just stopping for one month can re-start the entire life cycle and allow the environment to become re-infested.
To sum things up, we recommend flea prevention every month here in the Willamette Valley. We have several different formulations of flea prevention at the clinic (collars, oral, topical) so feel free to call or stop by if you have any questions! Thanks and stay tuned every month!
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