I think it’s safe to say that spring has finally arrived here in Vancouver! And often with the coming of spring, comes many questions from our clients about parasites in their pets. This month we begin our Parasite Awareness campaign at Amherst Veterinary Hospital so allow me to start by addressing your concerns regarding fleas.

Fleas are a blood-feeding external parasite that can live on many species of birds and mammals. They have a hard outer shell used to protect them from environmental conditions and they use their 6 legs to get around on, allowing them ample ability to jump from host to host. And your pets are the perfect host for fleas looking to eat lots and reproduce even more.

People often have the misconception that their pet must have access to the outdoors to pick up fleas. So for individuals with indoor-only pets, it’s assumed that flea prevention is not required. Certainly the risk of getting fleas is increased if your pet does go outdoors but this is not the only means by which your pet can acquire fleas. Although humans are not hosts to the fleas your pets may have, we can bring fleas into our homes on our belongings and clothing, and any other person and/or animals interacting with our pets may also bring with them fleas.

You see, fleas are crafty critters that have the ability to survive for long periods of time in environments that may otherwise be intolerable. Our homes make for a fairly stable living environment year-round and as such, the temperature and humidity within our homes make it an ideal place for fleas to live and reproduce. Although adult fleas primarily live on our pets, they also lay a large number of eggs, which fall off their host and remain in the environment. Developing fleas can remain dormant for months until optimal living conditions arise or until an appropriate host becomes available. So as eggs mature into larvae they easily hide in our carpets, rugs, furniture, or bedding and when they have grown into adults they immediately find a suitable host (our pets!) to feed and begin the life cycle once again.

The good news is, there are a variety of methods and products out there to help you combat a flea infestation and/or serve as a prevention tool. You should keep in mind that you will need a course of treatment that will cover the entire life cycle of the flea. Certainly, treating your pet is step one. Fleas not only cause intense scratching and itching in our pets but they can also cause severe allergy dermatitis and can be vectors and carriers of other viruses, bacteria, and diseases. Treatments come in the form of topical or oral. The topical treatments kill adult fleas on contact while the oral products interrupt the flea life cycle at the egg and larval stages. This renders them nonviable and unable to develop into adults in your home environment. Once your pet is on a treatment and prevention plan, then regular washing and vacuuming of your animal’s belongings and their most frequented areas in the house will also serve to help eliminate and prevent a flea infestation.

We hope that this blog post offered some insight and helps you understand and the treatment process. If you are concerned that your pet may have fleas please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Photo Credit: Kat Masback

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