The Problem with Fleas

I’d like to share an excerpt from a conversation I have had hundreds of times in 20 years of working at veterinary clinics:

Client “My dog/cat is itchy.”

Me: “What are you doing for flea control?”

Client “He/she doesn’t have fleas. It’s not fleas.”

Me: “I promise I’m not judging you. I just need to know what our starting point is. Here’s a flea. And here’s another one.”

Client: Shocked silence.

There is no reason to be ashamed if your pet has a few fleas! Unfortunately, flea infestations are simply part of life in Florida. Fleas thrive in warm, humid climates and ours is perfect for them nearly all year round, especially in the spring and fall. If you’ve never had a problem with fleas, you are very lucky!

If you do have a flea problem, it is essential to do three things at the same time: Treat the outdoor environment, treat the indoor environment, and treat pet every in the household, even indoor-only cats. If you leave out one of these key elements, you’ll have a hard time managing the situation.

The adult fleas found on animals represent only a small percentage of those in various life stages in the environment. Even with the best flea products on the market, there is no force field to keep them from jumping onto pets. Treating the environment means washing all pet bedding, vacuuming all carpets and furniture, and ideally consulting a professional exterminator to identify and mitigate infestations. Flea bombs are less expensive but also less effective because they don’t reach areas where fleas, eggs, and larvae love to hide (crawl spaces, cracks in the floor, underneath furniture, inside closets, etc). Safe, effective outdoor treatment is best achieved by a professional pest control or lawn care service.

Treating pets themselves can be confusing because there are so many products available now. Unfortunately, the fleas in our area are rarely well controlled with over-the-counter options. Many pet owners consult veterinarians only after trying every type of shampoo, spray, powder and drops they can find in stores. We all understand wanting to avoid costly prescriptions but people often end up spending more money buying products that are less effective. While trying these products, some pets may also develop secondary skin infections or have allergic reactions to flea saliva. Additional prescriptions may then be required to help pets become comfortable again.

If you have questions about flea control, please ask your veterinarian for guidance. We are here to help! – Written by: Dr. Elizabeth Chosa