Is Something Bugging Your Pet?
Fleas are a common problem with pets in Wisconsin, especially during late summer and early fall.
Fleas are small, brown or black, wingless insects with flattened bodies. These blood-sucking insects cause considerable irritation and distress to infested pets. The best places to look for fleas on your pet are the hindquarters, base of the tail, stomach and groin regions. Sometimes no fleas are found but only tiny, black granules that resemble black pepper. This material is flea feces and consists of digested blood.
Fleas spread the common dog and cat tapeworm, and carry several viral and bacterial diseases. Severe infestations may lead to anemia from blood loss. The most common health problems associated with fleas, however, are rashes, sores, and allergic skin disease caused by hypersensitivity to the flea saliva.
Allergic skin disease in the dog and cat may present as scratching – especially over the back, licking of the paws, and possibly a red rash that may be easily seen on the abdomen. Extensive skin damage may result from the pets biting, licking and scratching. In dogs, the main signs of flea allergy are excessive hair loss and severe scratching and biting. Skin sores develop primarily around the base of the tail, up the middle of the back, and on the abdomen. Skin infections are common. In cats, the main signs of flea allergy are excessive hair loss and small red papules with reddish-brown crusts. Sores are most prevalent around the neck, lower back, base of the tail, and abdomen.
Flea allergies usually worsen as an animal ages. Signs may begin earlier in the flea season and last longer. Skin reactions may also become more severe with age. Treatment includes flea control on the pet and in the pet’s environment as well as suppression of the allergic reaction.
There are three steps to flea treatment; (1) treat the pet, (2) treat the pet’s environment, such as the house, and (3) prevent the return of the fleas. The Elkhorn Veterinary Clinic recommends several treatment choices, based on the age of your pet, length of required protection, convenience, and safety. If your pet is not already on a flea preventative, please contact our office for recommendations. Our staff of technicians and veterinarians will be happy to discuss flea control and, if necessary, allergic skin disease treatment plans with you.