Fleas and Other Parasites - West Park Animal Hospital | Veterinary Care in Westchase, Tampa, FL

Fleas and Other Parasites

Nobody wants to hear that their pet has fleas, but it can happen to anyone. They can make your life and your pet’s life miserable.  At West Park Animal Hospital, we want to make sure that your pet is protected from these parasites, and we can help you get rid of them if you are already dealing with a problem.

Fleas are the most common external parasite found on our dogs and cats, and because the optimum environment for flea development is between 65-80F with high humidity, fleas are considered a year-round nuisance in Florida.  An adult female flea will start producing eggs often within the first 36 hours of jumping on your dog or cat, and can continue to produce up to 50 eggs per day for the next 3 months of its life.  In addition to causing itchiness, fleas also have the potential to carry and spread other diseases such as tapeworms and bartonella.  What all of this means for your pet is that even a single missed dose of flea prevention can result in an infestation of fleas in your home and the possible spread of illness to you and your pet.  What’s worse is that once the fleas have become established in the home environment it may take up to 3-4 months of consistent treatment to get the infestation under control.  The good news is that there are several great options for flea prevention and the veterinarians and veterinary staff at West Park Animal Hospital can work with you to find the best one for each of your four-legged family members.  Make sure to discuss all of the pets in your household with your veterinarians, because even one untreated animal can keep the flea’s life cycle going and cause problems for your other pets.

Many pet parents don’t believe their dog or cat can have fleas. Unfortunately, for some of our dogs and cats that have flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). These patients will itch and scratch uncontrollably in response to a single flea. Our veterinarians and veterinary staff pay special attention when looking for flea allergy as it can be so stressful for our pets. In these cases, you often will never see the flea that is causing your dog or cat so much trouble. When your pet has flea allergy dermatitis it is even more important to be very vigilant about giving your flea preventative as prescribed. Some pets with this disease have such severe symptoms that they have to be on two types of flea prevention throughout the year.

True or False

If your pet is being affected by fleas, you will be able to see the fleas on your pet.

False: Pets that are especially sensitive to flea bites will quickly bite or chew to remove the offending flea from their skin, making it very difficult to find fleas on your pet unless you are constantly checking with a fine tooth comb.  This is especially true in cats.

If there are fleas in the house, then the fleas should be biting the people as well.

False:  The type of flea that most commonly affects our dogs and cats, Ctenocephalides, will preferentially choose cats and dogs as hosts over people.  People are likely to be bitten only once the flea infestation has become significant.

There are no completely effective treatments for flea pupae.

True:  While there are treatments to kill flea adults, larvae and eggs, there are no effective treatments to kill flea pupae.  Because pupae can remain dormant for up to 1 year before hatching, it is important to consistently treat your pet and environment after an infestation to help get the flea population under control.

Dogs and cats can develop allergies to fleas.

True:  Both dogs and cats can develop allergies to flea saliva, which will become triggered when the flea bites the affected pet.  As little as 1-2 flea bites can create severe skin disease in allergic pets.

Microscopic view of a mite seen by the veterinarians at West Park Animal Hospital

Mites

Mites including scabies (sarcoptes) and demodex can cause many of the same symptoms of allergies and infections such as itchiness, hair loss, thickening and redness of the skin.  These mites are tiny, and cannot be seen without the assistance of a microscope.  Because it is incredibly common to have bacterial infections occur with mites, differentiating between the two types of skin disease can be difficult to impossible without your veterinarian performing a special test.  In addition to creating quite a bit of discomfort for your four-legged friend, scabies is considered contagious and can spread to other pets in the household, or even to you and your family.  The good news is that, once your pet is diagnosed, there are several treatment options available for mites that can get your pet feeling better quickly.  The vets at West Park Animal Hospital are prepared to walk you through every step of the process from diagnosis to treatment.