Hi everyone,

Ok, everyone might have loved that really mild winter we had, but the downside of it is that fleas and ticks are going to be really bad this summer. These insects are not only annoying to you and your pet, they have the potential to cause serious harm. As we are usually more concerned with ticks in the spring and have a spring newsletter devoted to them, I will talk here a little about fleas.

Fleas are a wingless insect and, therefore, are members of the phylum Arthropoda. They have three body segments, a head, a thorax, and an abdomen, and six legs, all of which are attached to the thorax. There are over 2000 species of fleas worldwide, but, here in the United States we are mostly concerned with Ctenocephalides felis, the cat flea, and Ctenocephalides canis, the dog flea. There also exists a human flea, Pulex irritans, and an interesting sidenote is that a rodent flea was actually responsible for the Black Plague outbreak in medieval times. Fleas spread the bacteria, Yersinia pestis, from rats to humans when they bit them. However, researchers now think that the cat flea may also be capable of transferring Y. pestis and cases of the plague are still occasionally reported.

That said, we are still mostly concerned with the effects that fleas have on our cats and dogs. When a flea bites an animal it is trying to find a capillary where its proboscis, a mouth part that is much like a hypodermic needle, can be inserted and a blood meal taken. However, they are not always successful on the first try, and therefore, repeated bites are often necessary. This, or even just the movement of the flea walking on the skin, is what induces the most common sign of fleas—pruritis, or itchy skin. Another common sign of flea infestation, especially in cats, is excessive grooming. Cats use their bristled tongue like a comb to remove the fleas, which may lead to another problem. Three percent of fleas are infected with Dipylidium caninum, tapeworms, and when the flea is ingested it is killed, but the tapeworm cyst passes to the intestine where it grows into a mature tapeworm.

When a flea bites it not only takes, but gives, as well. The flea injects some of its saliva into the bite wound, which serves as half anti-clotting agent, half anesthetic agent and allows the flea to feed longer. And just like many people are allergic to pet saliva, many pets are allergic to flea saliva. This condition, also known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis, is characterized by red, itchy spots on the skin, and/or spotty hair loss. If left untreated the pet may develop very red, open sores and secondary infection. The problem is that, depending on the pet, it may only take one flea. We carry many very effective products for flea (and tick) control and we would be happy to help you select a product that best meets the needs of you and your pet.

 

Thanks for reading,

Clinton Poling B.Sc.

 

 

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