Dr. Julie Damron

2 minutes reading time (388 words)

Flea season is upon us

By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record March 22, 2008

The weather is beautiful, but with sunshine come fleas. These pesky critters can be an annoyance for you and your pets.

The primary flea that affects humans, dogs and cats is the cat flea, or Ctenocehalides felix. It exists in warm, moist climates and thrives in Northern California. The adult flea lives mainly on animals and takes in blood to survive.

In addition to the irritating bites, fleas can cause an array of health problems. The two most common ones are tapeworms and anemia.

When animals eat fleas, they can develop the internal parasite called tapeworm. Tapeworms can be treated with a dewormer, but the flea problem needs to be controlled as well. With severe flea infestations, animals can lose a lot of blood and become anemic.

There also are blood-borne illnesses related to fleas. Haemobartonellosis is a disease in cats that affects red blood cells and can be passed on by flea bites. It causes blood loss or anemia and can result in death.

Fleas can trigger allergies. If your pet has a flea allergy, it will scratch, chew and lick itself, typically around the tail, legs and abdomen.

Remember, you don't have to find fleas on your pet. If your companion is sensitive to fleas, one bite can trigger itching for days to weeks. Flea dirt can be visible in your pet's coat as well.

Although fleas are everywhere, people commonly don't treat them routinely. There are several reasons for this. Most importantly, there is a stigma associated with having fleas on your pets. In addition, people don't like placing chemicals on their companions, and the treatments are often messy. Therefore, they only treat some pets, and they don't treat consistently. Because the high-quality products are expensive, clients often will use over-the-counter products that aren't as effective.

To prevent flea issues, it is best to use high-quality flea-control products on your companions year-round. Even if you don't see fleas, it is much easier and less expensive in the long run to use these treatments. There are new preventatives available through your veterinarian that are given by mouth and have been proved highly effective. Yard treatments also are available.

Your veterinarian can help you decide which forms of prevention can work best.

Julie Damron is a veterinarian at Sierra Veterinary Clinic. Contact her at .

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