April is here, and warmer weather is on the horizon. The warmer weather brings a nice break from the cold, darker days of winter but it also brings those pesky parasites that our pets hate – the flea. Fleas are tiny bugs that strike fear into the hearts of anyone who’s had a pet with this nasty infestation. Northern Ontario is familiar with bugs in the warmer months of the year, but very few bugs that we see here in the Sudbury region give as much grief to pet owners as the mighty flea does.
Fleas are very small bugs (adult fleas measure about 3 mm) that require blood to grow and reproduce. They are opportunistic, so they will bite most mammals and birds to get their blood meal. The reason they cause stress for pet owners is because they are so good at reproducing. A female flea can lay up to 5000 eggs in her lifetime! So it doesn’t take much for one flea to turn into a full blown infestation.
Fleas have been around for millions of years, and they have become masters at what they do. They are responsible for the spread of many diseases – The Black Plague was transmitted to humans via the flea. We don’t have to worry about the plague so much anymore, but the flea can transmit other diseases and parasites, such as tapeworm. They are a source of irritation and discomfort for many pets, and some compromised animals (such as the very young or elderly) can become anemic from blood loss due to flea bites. Many pets have an allergy to the flea bite itself which can be responsible for severe skin inflammation and infection, known as flea allergy dermatitis.
Fleas are mighty jumpers. In fact, they are one of the best jumping species of all animals (compared to their body size). Fleas can jump vertically 7 inches and horizontally 13 inches. That means if the flea was the size of a six-foot man, the flea would be able to leap over a tall building in a single bound (kind of like Superman but not in a good way). Because they can jump so well, fleas can move easily from one animal to another, infecting more and more pets.
Unfortunately, the flea does not just live on our pets. The eggs, larva and adult fleas can be found in the environment as well. So if you find one flea on your pet, you probably have fleas laying eggs and living in your home as well. This means that not only do you have to treat your pet to get rid of the fleas, you also have to treat your home environment as well. This is a time-consuming and expensive undertaking. That’s why prevention is always the best option! We see fleas 12 months of the year in the Sudbury area now, so it is recommended to keep your pet on flea prevention all year. There is a multitude of options for pets when it comes to flea prevention. There are topical applications which involve applying a small amount of liquid on the back of the pet’s neck once a month. This is the best option for pets who have Flea Allergy Dermatitis because any bite can trigger an allergic reaction. There are also chewable treat-like tablets that can be given monthly as a prevention – this prevention does require the flea to bite your pet in order to be effective.
If your pet has fleas, please give us a call so we can tell you how to get rid of this pest from your home and your pet. If your pet doesn’t have fleas, please keep it that way by using preventive medication. You DON’T want fleas to be a part of your life – they really aren’t worth the bug!
Written by Cambrian Animal Hospital