Flea infestations … they can happen to everyone (really)

Flea infestations … they can happen to everyone (really)

In 2011 our collaborator left practice to pursue a PhD at the vet college. With the stress and busyness of moving, a critical routine fell through the cracks.

October 20, 2019

Trucks loaded, check.

Five-vehicle caravan hurtling down the 401 to Guelph, check.

Trucks unloaded, check.

Boxes unpacked … still working on that one 8 years later.

The only thing left to do was enjoy the rest of the summer with my wife and our Cockapoo, li’l Walter. We spent the summer exploring the beauty of southern Ontario: camping, hiking, fishing, canoeing and marveling at beautiful sunsets over Lake Huron. Oh yeah, and plenty of “Cockapoo in the wild”. If you’ve never seen a Cockapoo in his natural habitat, you should. It’s truly majestic!

One slip of the mind
The month after starting back to school, I noticed that Walter was really going to town scratching his ears and paws. He’s dealt with allergies his whole life, so I did our normal allergy routine—I treated his ears, gave him a bath and administered antihistamines. This time, it didn’t even touch his itching. Something was up. That’s when it dawned on me … I’d missed 3 months of flea and heartworm treatment!

Excessive itching is the main sign that Walter had fleas, but it wasn’t the only one. His skin was red and irritated. I put my veterinary expertise into practice: I wet off a paper towel, set Walter on top and rubbed his hair. Just as I thought, tiny black flecks fell onto the paper towel. They turned a brownish red after a few seconds … “flea dirt”, the flea’s blood meals. I grabbed a comb and started looking for a live varmint. Bingo! one jumped out of his hair right away. I also looked at his favourite dog bed and found small white eggs. I’ve seen fleas before, but never thought it could happen to me.

The dreaded C-word
Ctenocephalides felis, referred to as the cat flea. I was face-to-face with the most common parasitic infestation of dogs and cats in North America. I’m guessing that Walter picked them up sometime during his summertime wilderness adventures. In the wild, they infect several animals, such as raccoons, opossums, skunks, foxes and coyotes. Infested wildlife constantly drop flea eggs into the environment. Flea eggs need shady, warm, moist areas to develop into adults. They lie in wait for unsuspecting Cockapoos.

Fleas survive by feeding off the blood of animals and humans. This is very itchy and may lead to hair loss from frequent scratching and biting. Some animals can develop allergies to flea bites (known as flea allergy dermatitis), making the itchiness and irritation even worse. In extreme cases, your pet could develop anemia from all those blood meals. What really worried me was that these fleas could carry diseases like tapeworms and serious bacterial infections (e.g. typhus) that can be transmitted to humans!

I had to act fast.

Visit this article to read how Dr Shock treated l’il Walter and his other animals, and the steps his family took to make their home flea-free.


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