Stolley Park
Veterinary Hospital

3020 W. Stolley Park Road  Grand Island, Nebraska  68801  
Phone:  308-384-6272   Fax:  308-384-0984

November Newsletter

Fleas: Get the Facts

“Tessa keeps chewing at her back end, Doc! I think it’s her glands.” A common complaint in the veterinary exam room, and “chewing at the rear” can definitely be caused by anal glands. There are, however, other possible culprits. The usual suspect for a pet that chews or is really itchy above its tail is, surprisingly enough, fleas and flea allergy.

Facts about fleas:

1) If you suspect fleas, run your finger through your pet’s hair “backwards” and look for little black dirt or specks. If you get this dirt wet and it turns red (use a paper towel, red on white is the most obvious), then you are likely seeing digested blood or “flea poop.” Another great place to look for flea dirt is on the back of the neck, under the chin and on the belly.

2) If you see flea dirt on your pet, your pet has a flea infestation. A flea has to take a blood meal and eliminate waste before this dirt is seen. If you see a lot of “dirt”, your pet has a lot of fleas. If you see flea dirt, and your pet lives inside, you now have fleas in the house. If they’ve had long enough to feed and eliminate, they’ve had time to reproduce.

3) To get rid of fleas, we must understand their life cycle. Groan, right? Life cycle, yuck! But seriously, we are very passionate about this. The most important and frustrating part of this life cycle when trying to get fleas out of your house is the pupae, or cocoon form. THIS CAN NOT BE DESTROYED. Think cockroach after a nuclear attack. In order to get fleas out of your house, you have to kill the adults, eggs and larvae, and then pounce when the adult hatches out of that protective cocoon.

4) The bottom line is that you have to set your expectations. Know that getting fleas out of the house takes time. First you have to take away the flea’s food sources, which means you should protect every pet, indoor and outdoor pets alike (see our September 2011 newsletter for more details on pet flea control). Then you hit the environment, which can involve vacuuming, spraying more than once, and cleaning of bedding, furniture, etc.

5) Also know that “resurgence” can occur 5 to 6 weeks after you start your intense flea eradication program. You may just let your guard down and WHAM, you start seeing fleas jumping on your white socks again. You are still winning the war; these are just hatchlings from late-developing pupae that refused to show their faces earlier in the battle. Now you’ve got them!

6) Of course, prevention is the easiest option. Keep your pets on monthly preventative all year long and never have to fight this war in the first place.

7) But if this is closing the barn door after the horse got out, then call us. We have the weapons to help you fight this battle, and we hate fleas too. They are annoying and itchy. They spread disease. They suck blood and may make your pet sick. Let us help you kill them. We’d love to.