There are so many reasons to love living in New Orleans, but fleas are certainly not one of them! Most cities will have a reprieve from these pesky, little vampires in the winter, but our poor pets are bombarded year round due to our short, mild winters. We at Lakeview Veterinary Hospital have been seeing flea allergy cases on the rise since February, and now that the warmer, humid weather is picking back up, they just keep increasing. A single flea can create 20,000 more in just two months, which is why we strongly recommend year round prevention.
If you’ve noticed your pets are chewing and scratching to the point that they are losing hair right above their rear ends, then fleas are the most likely culprit. They can be difficult to see because of their tiny size and fast ability to jump away. However, you can usually see little bits of black debris (like pepper) left behind when you part your pet’s fur. This debris is commonly called “flea dirt” and is really just the poop from fleas after they have a blood meal. Scratching isn’t the only damage fleas can cause for our pets. Fleas can also lead to anemia, bacterial infections, blood parasites, and intestinal parasites like tapeworms. Tapeworms appear as “little, white grains of rice” in your pet’s stools or as “sesame seeds” stuck to the fur around your pet’s read end.
Keep in mind that if you’re seeing adult fleas or the signs of fleas on your pet, you’re only seeing 5% of the total flea population. The rest of the 95% is actually made up of eggs, larvae, and pupae and these stages can be more difficult to kill. Wildlife reservoirs like feral cats, coyotes, raccoons, possums, and other rodents can also build up a flea population in your yard. Fleas prefer areas that are warm, humid, and shady so underneath oak trees or underneath a raised house are the ideal environments. One of the ways you can help control this is with a yard treatment like “Talstar.” The inside of your house can also harbor flea eggs and larvae in your carpet, floorboards, along the baseboards, and even under your sheets. You can frequently wash pet beds, vacuum areas where pets spend a lot of their time, and use an indoor safe spray called “KnockOut.” If your infestation is severe or has been going on for several months, you may need to get professional help from the pest control experts.
There are many flea preventatives on the market, from a single tasty chewable that can provide up to 3 months of protection to a single monthly topical. However, not all of them are of equal safety and efficacy. The veterinarians at Lakeview Veterinary Hospital are happy to help you choose the best one for you and your pet. So what are you waiting for? Come on by and pick up your pet’s flea prevention today!