Published Aug. 13, 2012 @ 6 a.m.
In my last article we discussed a type of allergy called Atopy which is comparable to hay fever in humans. This week we are going to dive into another form of pet allergy. This allergy involves an ‘itchier’ subject all of us pet owners love to hate….FLEAS! How many of you have seen an animal covered with so many fleas it makes you start itching and feeling imaginary critters crawling all over you? Don’t all raise your hands at once! Can you imagine how your pet feels having these pests crawling and biting all over its body? Now let’s discuss the allergy aspect to fleas adding another level of distress for your pet.
Flea allergy dermatitis is one of the most frequently diagnosed skin conditions in dogs and cats. Although the flea itself is a nuisance, the allergy is actually caused by the pet developing an extreme sensitivity to the flea’s saliva. Yup, you heard me correct….the flea’s spit! Just a few bites can cause hair loss, create thickened scaly skin, and cause self-inflicted wounds as the animal tries to relieve the intense itching. We refer to this itching as Pruritus which is the primary clinical sign. Pruritus could mean the animal is chewing (as if eating corn on the cob), rubbing, rolling, or scratching areas of its body such as around the tail base, dorsal lumbar region, caudal thighs, groin and abdomen. Secondary skin infections in these irritated areas can occur at any time. After a diagnosis is made, aggressive treatment is warranted. Treatment options can involve eliminating the fleas, prescribing systemic steroids for itching, giving antibiotics if an infection is present, and possible hypo-sensitization injections. Removal and prevention of fleas is the most effective treatment…and in my opinion, the most important!
Now here’s where I’ll have a pop quiz later so pay attention! Did you know the adult flea only makes up about 5% of the total flea population? The other 95% are the eggs, larva and pupa stage. Adult fleas spend 75% of their lifecycle OFF THE ANIMAL!! Meaning for every 1 flea you see on your pet, there are 7-10 adults living in your pet’s environment. Fleas cannot survive harsh elements such as extreme heat and cold, but thrive in a more controlled climate such as under a porch, bush, shady dog house, and yes, inside your home. Here’s another interesting ‘flea fact’….did you know a female flea can produce thousands of eggs each day in your yard or home? Let me repeat that one more time….THOUSANDS of eggs DAILY!!! Makes the old saying about rabbits seem trivial, doesn’t it? Because of these facts, you MUST treat all factors in order to have successful flea prevention. Only treating your pet and not the environment will NOT make a difference!
Flea control these days is not as difficult as it once was. Between topical medications for your pet to yard & home treatments, we have many clients enjoy a successful flea control regimen. If you think your pet is suffering from flea allergies or any other health issue, give me a call at Garza County Animal Hospital (806) 495-3726.