The Birds and the Fleas… a difficult but necessary conversation with your vet.

Every day, yes… every day I find myself transforming into Teddy Ruxpin and our fine nurses pressing the play button on my backside to start the “Flea talk” tape. My mouth opens in a robotic manner and out comes another classic bed-time story about… fleas! In many instances they are the main source of itchy pets and they tend to make life miserable both in the present and in the future. The story is more about your pet’s immune system and how they defend against these pesky parasites.

To begin, everyone should realize they live in Austin- home of Barton Springs, live music, Sandy B and nihilistic super-fleas. The life cycle of the flea is not so complex but with ever changing weather that makes up Austin’s climate- there is rarely a lull in the sun long enough to completely destroy hardy fleas and even hardier flea eggs. What you end up with is the maxim –“only the strong survive”, and replicate for that matter, so every year we get a stronger and more resistant flea. A flea that can evolve and gain resistance to certain flea insecticides. If the temperature goes over 60 and the humidity is over 60% be prepared because fleas will hatch and seek fur.

Ecology crossing over into hygiene- that there be the problem with this conversation – discussing fleas always gets a defensive “we do not have fleas!”. As I learned from a Houston resident visiting Austin who assured me her dog acquired fleas from our practice… it’s a sensitive conversation. Still, that is no reason to avoid the truth- fleas are everywhere and they will find refuge when a dog or cat gets near. They can sense the vibration, hatch out and feed. Therein lies the rub… or scratch. Even if you are preventative, sometimes a flea can break through the defense and get a bite on your baby.

So lets take it a step further- much like a mosquito- a flea will feed and thus secrete an anticoagulant in your pets skin so it may continue to feed. This will cause severe pruritis (itchiness) and an immediate Type 1 hypersensitivity reaction much like you would get from that mosquito but it also causes a type 4 hypersensitivity response which can be induced days to weeks later. Essentially it causes an itch well after the bite and its hard to detect and perhaps even harder to find evidence. So just trust me, its there and it exists.

So how do you prevent?

-STAY ON FLEA PREVENTATIVE- if you do, your pet stands a better chance of keeping the exposure level down and building natural defense. Speak with your vet about the best control in your region as its different across the U.S. Does your dog swim? Maybe an oral treatment is better?
-Control the environment- Put out nematodes in your yard. A natural way to make your soil healthier and introduce natural predators of flea eggs.
-Get on probiotics specialized for cats and dogs- they boost the immune system some 40% which means you will have a stronger defense against flea saliva.
-Start sucking! Well… buy a nice vacuum and really get the house clean, and on occasion take those rugs out and bang em’ good.
-Feed a high quality diet- the more you offer your pet via nutrition will effect your pets immune system. Be cautious with ingredients but even more so by choosing the best diet for lifestyle.

– Hide all bass guitars in the garage and only pull them out when there is a drum set near by.

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