The 4-1-1:
So, your pet has fleas. You just saw
one, so what’s the big deal? To
answer this, you first need to
understand ...
“He that lieth down with Dogs,
shall rise up with Fleas.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Despite their tiny size, fleas can
cause hug...
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Client Handout - Fleas


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Client handout (fleas), created for senior generalized small animal practice rotation (health and wellness)

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Client Handout - Fleas

  1. 1. The 4-1-1: So, your pet has fleas. You just saw one, so what’s the big deal? To answer this, you first need to understand the life cycle of the flea. Adult fleas are found on pets, and after taking a blood meal (yes, they drink your pet’s blood!), the females lay eggs on your pet, then drop off and into the environment (e.g., your house!). In her lifespan, a female flea can lay thousands of eggs. These eggs then become larvae, which hatch after about two weeks. The larvae then become pupae, and from there, hatch to the adult life stage and start the cycle all over again. So, what’s the big deal with just one flea? Check out the chart below to see a breakdown of how the other life stages compare to the adult in the environment (your house)! Flea Prevention Believe it or not, treating your pet’s environment (yes, your house!) is a critical part of treating your pet for fleas. This can be achieved through frequent vacuuming and throwing away the bag or emptying the canister as soon as you’re done. Additionally, your pet’s bedding and any upholstered surfaces should also be vacuumed and laundered, if possible. Outside, keep the grass mowed and remove the clippings. You may also treat your lawn with insecticides, but before doing so, make sure it’s pet- safe! And, of course, then there’s your pet. There are a wide variety of both topical (on the skin) and oral flea preventatives available, so be sure to mention your preference for topical vs. oral medication to your veterinarian, and they will work with you to come up with the appropriate plan for you and your pet. Your Pet & Answers to your questions about these tiny creatures and the big problems they can cause. Fleas
  2. 2. “He that lieth down with Dogs, shall rise up with Fleas.” – Benjamin Franklin Despite their tiny size, fleas can cause huge problems, both for pets and their owners. It’s no secret that fleas make animals itchy. This itchiness (pruritus) arises when the animal is bitten by a flea as it takes a blood meal. Furthermore, this itchiness then causes your pet to scratch or chew at themselves to subdue the itchy feeling, only to cause skin lesions as a result. These “hot spots” easily – and very quickly – become infected with bacteria, and are very painful for your pet. What’s more, even if the hot spots are treated and cleared, as long as your pet has fleas, it’s more likely that the hot spots will recur. So, your pet has fleas… what now? Don’t worry! This is a very common occurrence, and in fact, is one of the most common problems seen in general practice. Later in this brochure, ways to get rid of and prevent fleas will be discussed, but first, it’s important that you be aware of all of the problems that fleas can cause (yes, they dodo more than make your pet itchy!) Fleas can also perpetuate tapeworm infections in companion animals. This is because flea larvae consume tapeworm eggs, and once they mature to the adult life stage, can pass them on to our companion animals. To put it simply, if your pet ingests a flea (e.g., while grooming), they have just ingested tapeworm eggs. As such, all pets with a flea infestation are at a significant risk for developing a tapeworm infection, and all should be tested for tapeworms. As they pass through your pet’s digestive tract, their segments can be seen on the fur on your pet’s rear (look like a grain of rice). The worms can cause your pet a bit of discomfort, sometimes manifested as “scooting” behavior. Flea allergy dermatitis is another condition commonly seen with flea infestations, manifested as loss of hair (alopecia) over the areas commonly inhabited by fleas (inner thigh, abdomen, over the tail head, along the spine, on the neck/head). The itchiness in these animals may be so intense as to cause self- mutilation. This can lead to severe skin infections which often require long courses of antibiotics to clear the infection, as well as other medications to relieve the itchiness and reduce inflammation. Because they feed on your pet’s blood, heavy flea infestations can cause a significant anemia in pets, which can be life-threatening, especially if the fleas are killed off rapidly (e.g., during a bath). The easiest way to prevent this (and all of the aforementioned problems) is to treat your pet, their environment, and everything in their environment. Options are discussed on the back of this brochure.