Tell me all about fleas

Is your dog itching at the spot above its tail? Is your cat scratching around its neck? Even if you do not see fleas, if you find flea dirt, the pin-prick-sized residue of these pests, your pet has a problem. Do not take fleas lightly. Beyond their itchy bites, flea infestations can lead to skin infections, spread diseases, and even suck enough blood to cause a life-threatening anemia. Pets can catch tapeworms as they groom themselves and eat the fleas. The scariest aspect of the flea however, is its ability to survive and reproduce.

After mating, a female flea can lay up to 45 eggs a day, which hatch in 4 to 10 days. A flea can live up to 18 months, potentially producing 16000 offspring. If all of these fleas were to reproduce, the succeeding generation could total over 130 million (the next generation would be 9 million billion, or 2 million fleas for every person on earth). It is easy to see why a flea infestation can be such a difficult problem to eliminate.

Fortunately, recent advancements hold the key to solving this problem. Flea control medications like Advantage, and Program have virtually eliminated this aggravation. Which medication is best for your pet depends on your individual situation. The amount of time they spend outdoors, the amount they swim or are bathed, and other parasite problems will contribute to the decision.

Revolution is a topical spot-on that is used once per month. Revolution kills fleas that come in contact with your pet, so it is a very good product for animals with flea allergies in which one bite can cause great discomfort.

In California’s warm climate, it is recommended that you use flea products for all 12 months of the year. Although the cost may seem expensive initially, it is much less than the combined cost of repeated sprays, bombs, baths and dips. You may obtain these medications through Mobile Vet. It is recommended that you talk to your veterinarian before using any new medication with your pet because, as with people, all drugs are not suitable for all pets. Inappropriate use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs have caused problems.

Fleas are not the only cause of itching. Allergies (to food, pollens, or bedding), skin infections (by bacteria or fungi), parasites, and other metabolic problems can all cause dogs and cats to itch without fleas. If you have doubts about the cause of your pet’s scratching, it is best to have your pet checked by our veterinarian.

I am allergic to my pet. Help!

Q: I’ve had cats my entire life. Now suddenly I find out I’m allergic to cats according to an allergy blood test. Not only that but on their scale of 0 to 6 I was a 4. The lady said 6 is highly uncommon so a 4 is fairly significant. My question is, what exactly is cat dander? Does it come from the saliva or the fur? And would the ionic air filter from Sharper Image reduce the dander, or is it something completely unavoidable? How effective are allergy shots?

A: Allergies are reactions of the immune system to a foreign protein. Animals and humans can develop allergies to any foreign protein substance. Allergic reactions can occur to food eaten, objects in contact, injected medications or inhaled allergens. Most human allergies to pets result from contact or inhaled allergens.

Contact allergies occur when a pet’s nails or fur touches the human skin. The immune response of the skin reacts causing hives or red bumps that itch. Inhalant allergies occur when the air picks up dander, or dead skin and hair, and this is breathed in by the person. The person’s respiratory system reacts to the foreign protein invasion, causing red eyes, sneezing and runny nose.

Not everyone has allergies, and allergies are treated by human doctors in many ways. Anti-allergy medications can be purchased over the counter, or stronger prescription anti allergy medications can be obtained from a doctor. These medications tell the body’s immune system not to over react to foreign proteins. The immune system can also be trained by going through a series of allergy shots. These injections inundate the immune system with the allergen causing it to become used to the foreign protein.

Frequent bathing of pets definitely helps reduce the stray hair and skin particles, and will help in any allergy. Some people are allergic to cat litter and not the cat, so changing the litter brand may help.

My dog gives me a rash, what can I do?

Q: I break out in hives and rashes when I pet our dog. I never had this problem before. What causes this?

A: It sounds as though you are allergic, or hypersensitive, to your dog. Allergies to animals are common, for immune systems are very sensitive to foreign animal proteins. Different breeds of dogs have different proteins, so you may only be allergic to the particular breed of dog you have now, or you may be sensitive to all dogs. Your human doctor can help you identify exactly what you are allergic to, and help you with desensitization or anti-allergy therapy. Many people try the over the counter anti-allergy medications, such as Benedryl, to great success. Since most allergens from a dog are from the flakes of skin and hair, frequently bathing your dog may help decrease your reactions.

An allergy develops after repeated exposure to a specific allergen, and may take years to manifest itself. I commonly hear of people having cats or dogs for many years, only to develop allergies later in life.

Why does my dog have discharge from his eyes?

Q: Both of our dogs have discharge in both eyes. Besides that they seem to be fine. No sneezing or fever. Is this normal?

A: Dogs, like humans, cats and other animals, have a constant cleaning mechanism for their eyes. Tears are constantly being produced and wiped across the eyes by the eyelids to remove dust, germs and debris. The tears dry into crusts. These crusts may flake off or accumulate in the corners of the eyes. Small brown crusts are normal. Bilateral discharge is normal. When one side is worse than the other, a problem may be indicated. Mucoid discharges, especially if discolored with yellow or green, may indicate an infection. Tears running down one side of the nose from the eye may indicate a clogged tear duct. Dusty and dirty environments make dogs form more discharge and crusts and cleaner, indoor environments. Some breeds seem to have more discharge than others, due to eye conformation, self cleaning behavior and activity level.