fleas

Wanda Weaver is one of my most interesting clients

    Wanda Weaver is one of my most peculiar clients. Last week, she charged into the clinic with her three dogs—Stinky, Scruffy, and Itchy.

    “Doctor, please help my dogs with their shedding, it’s just terrible.”     

    I looked at her half-bald dogs and nodded in agreement.  “Even though most dogs will lose their summer coat this time of year, it looks like your dogs may have a health problem.”

    “That’s what I was thinking.  Last year wasn’t this bad.” 

    I remembered things differently—last time I saw her dogs, they were completely bald.   “Actually, your dogs lost all of their hair last summer. We treated them for that.”

    “I know.  And I want them to lose all of their hair this year, too. Can’t you make them shed more?” asked Wanda.  

         Now, I was confused.  “Don’t you want them to stop shedding?,” I asked.             

     “No, I want them to lose their hair—all of it—I  weave blankets and couch covers out of dog hair and I need more raw materials!”

         “Oh,” I said, trying to keep the surprise out of my voice.  Wanda really did want her dogs to go bald. For an instant, I saw the world through Wanda’s eyes and worried about myself-- If you can understand a crazy person, does that make you crazy?

         Her dogs looked miserable, and I decided that I had to help them regain their hair coat, even if it meant upsetting Wanda.  

         Stinky was the first to be examined.  “He has red and oily skin and a dull, coarse hair coat,” I showed Wanda.

    “Stinky is always getting dirty, so I bathe him two or three times a week. The funny thing is that he smells even worse within a few days.”

    “What kind of shampoo do you use on him?”

    “I know that human shampoo is too drying for a dog’s skin, so I don’t use that.  Instead, I picked up something at the supermarket. The bottle said it was for dogs with sensitive skin.”

    “I’m afraid that Stinky has developed a skin infection and that is why he smells so bad.  The shampoo probably has soaps in it that are removing the natural oils that keep bacteria on his skin in balance.  Here’s a special medicated emollient shampoo that will restore the skin’s natural balance and then he will stop stinking.”

    She put Scruffy on the exam table.  “He is my most finicky dog and will only eat cheap dog food and table scraps.”  Scruffy was fat and had a lot of dandruff.  It is ironic that the ‘finicky’ dogs are always the fattest—he must be eating something to get that fat!

    “Scruffy’s diet lacks the fish oil and vitamins that he needs to have a healthy hair coat.  If you buy a better dog food, you’ll see improvement within a month.”  

    “What if he doesn’t eat it?”

    “In all my years, I’ve never seen a dog starve himself just because he didn’t like the menu—and I don’t think that Scruffy will be the first.”  Scruffy gave me a dirty look; his gravy train was over.

    Itchy had been quietly licking her paws while I examined the other dogs.  “She is always licking or scratching something,” said Wanda.  Since, Wanda purchased a good flea control product from the clinic, I knew that Itchy’s problem wasn’t related to flea bites.  

    After several questions and an exam, it appeared that Itchy had developed allergies.  The pattern of hair loss and the areas where she licked were the best clues.  I gave Itchy a treatment that was going to help her feel better and stop licking within a few days.

    Two months later, Wanda came in to show off her dogs. I barely recognized them, because they each were completely covered with shiny hair.

    “Doctor, look what you’ve done!” she said to me.  

    “Yes, I’m sorry Wanda, but I couldn’t let your dogs go bald, it just wasn’t healthy.”

    “I know that you’re responsible for their beautiful hair coats, but I’m not mad.”

    “You’re not?”

    “No, just think how nice next year’s crop of dog hair is going to be!” 


For every Adult flea you see. . . there are 100 baby fleas in the environment!

Yuck!

Fleas  only have two jobs and they do both of  them very well:
    1) To suck blood from their host

    2) To reproduce

Along the way, fleas have picked up a few other tricks— such as transmitting diseases like the Bubonic Plague and acting as a taxicab for parasites such as Tapeworms.

Modern flea preventatives are designed to attack the fleas’ chemical messages (neurotransmitters) that regulate their jumping and biting!  

By blocking these neurotransmitters, a flea is quickly paralyzed and killed. Unfortunately, many flea neurotransmitters are similar to those found in people, dogs, cats and most mammals, so we have to take great care to poison the flea without poisoning the pet.  There are many “effective” flea killing products that are actually hazardous to your pet, and you will find them sold over the counter in many places.  This is a real ‘Pet Owner Beware’ situation!!

Flea control is a 3-pronged attack— for lasting control you must treat the pet, the yard and the household.  However, with quality products, just treating the pet may bring significant relief to an animal when there is a flea infestation.

These days, it’s a good time to be a pet with fleas, because we have so many great options.

Some people prefer to “go natural” with their flea control, but there can be pitfalls with that. Topical oils such as Cedar or Eucalyptus can be irritating to the skin and respiratory tracts of pets. Also, Diatomaceous Earth (DE) may kill fleas, but it needs to be present in such high quantities in the environment that it is a significant irritant to the lungs of humans and animals— and since dogs and cats stand closer to the ground than we do, they end up breathing in more of the DE!   

There are many very effective and safe products available for flea control in pets. Cats tend to be much more sensitive to flea medication, so greater care needs to be taken when choosing a flea product for them.  New products are available all of the time, and your veterinarian will be familiar with the products, their advantages, disadvantages and safety studies.

At Valley Animal Hospital, we almost always beat the price of the online pharmacy’s—

For example:


                                                                     Our Price                   PetMeds

Bravecto  (Flea & Tick control)             $46/ 1 dose                 $49.99/ 1 dose    Our price is better!

Trifexis (Flea & Heartworm Control)    $100.99/6 doses        $114.99/6 doses    Our price is better!

Advantage (Fleas only—20-55# dog)    $71.99/ 7 doses        $65.98/6 doses    Our price is better!



You are welcome to share this blog with others. Please give the author credit— Copyright 2015 by Jon Klingborg, DVM who is a veterinarian at the best animal hospital in Merced, California, Valley Animal Hospital.

    

Does my dog have mange?

When a dog has little tiny mites causing hairloss or itchiness, this condition is often referred to as “mange.”  

There are two main kinds of mange that we see in dogs, and distinguishing the type of mange is important, because one type is contagious to other dogs and people, and the other is not!

When the Demodex mite causes mange, it is often called Puppy Mange.  Why?  You guess it!  Because it is usually seen in puppies or occasionally in immune suppressed animals (such as dogs that have a severe allergy problem in their skin.)

Puppy Mange (Demodex) typically causes:

  • Hair Loss around the eyes, lips and feet

  • Isn’t very itchy

  • Patch hair loss along the sides of the body 

  • often results in crusty, thick and stinky skin

Here is a picture of two demodex mites under the microscope. They are so small that they can fit inside a hair follicle!  

The adult Demodex mite has eight little legs and a “cigar shaped” body.  

When these mights cause mange, it’s called “Demodectic Mange.”  There are numerous treatments for this type of infestation and it can take several months to resolve. The long time course for treatment is in part because 1) the patient has a lowered immune system and 2) the secondary skin infection can be a real challenge to bring under control.


While there are some over-the-counter remedies for this type of mange, many of them are too toxic to be safe for puppies. Remember:  Our goal is to poison the mite without poisoning the patient. OTC products don’t provide the same safety guarantees as the products your veterinarian has in the clinic pharmacy!


Scabies is the other type of mange.  The Scabies mite is constantly biting the dog (to feed) and this causes intense irritation and itchiness.  

Sarcoptic (or Scabies) Mange typically causes:

  • Intense itchiness— often to the point where the dog is doing nothing but chewing on himself and scratching.

  • Hair loss starting on the legs and working its way up the sides of the body.

  • Red bumps wherever there is hair loss.

These mites are intensely contagious, and will bite people, too.  Most people who get scabies from their dog will note increased itchiness and a pimple-like rash on their bellies.  

The good news about Sarcoptic Mange is that these mites tend to be quick to control. Usually within a couple of days of the first treatment owners note a marked decrease in their dog’s chewing behavior.   

Your veterinarian has a number of safe and effective products for bringing a Sarcoptic Mange problem under control quickly— hopefully before it spreads to other animals (or people!)  Also, the veterinarian can help your pet with any secondary skin infections or other issues that the mites caused with all their mischief!

If the above problems don’t sound like your dog’s issue— then it is time to see your pet’s Doctor!  Your dog may have allergies, a hormone imbalance, skin infection, vitamin deficiency or a number of other issues that can cause some combination of smelly skin, baldness, itchiness and more.  


Please feel free to distribute this article (at no charge) via all media— all we ask is that you give credit to the author Dr. Jon Klingborg. You will find him at the best veterinary hospital in Merced, California– Valley Animal Hospital. www.vahmerced.com  and www.valleyanimalmerced.com Copyright 2015 by Jon Klingborg, DVM

A Midsummer's Horror Story

Zombies!  Vampires!  Our houses are being overrun with these shady characters at an alarming rate.  There is a metaphorical horror film being recorded daily on a small scale, but with real consequences for the happiness of our pets, and for our own sanity.  You notice Fido scratching or biting out large patches of fur, even damaging his own skin.  Mittens is spending more time grooming, and is also starting to show thinning fur and scabby skin.  They couldn’t possibly be turning into zombies, could they???

    Of course (and thankfully) these supernatural beings are figments of Hollywood’s imagination, but there is still real-life parasite war going on under our feet.  You may have guessed that I am talking about FLEAS, one of the many Vampires of the animal world.  These bloodsuckers do a fairly good job of making your pet’s life an itchy, scratchy world of pain, and it doesn’t take long for the whole house to become infested.  The Central San Joaquin Valley in California is a perfect environment for fleas to multiply, and it doesn’t take long for Fido or Mittens to be inundated by hundreds, if not thousands of fleas.

 

For every adult flea, there are at least 10 flea eggs in the environment. Yuck!

For every adult flea, there are at least 10 flea eggs in the environment. Yuck!

A Brief Education on the Flea Life Cycle:

    It is important to understand the flea life cycle in order to figure out how to conquer the flea problem you may be having.  The adult flea spends its entire life on an animal, with the sole purpose of eating and reproducing.  Fleas consume blood meals (just like Vampires!) many times per day, causing itching and redness at the site of the bite.  Adult fleas can live longer than two years as long as food is continuously available.

    The adult female flea lays thousands of eggs during her life.  The eggs do not stay on the animal, but fall off onto the ground (or carpet, or pet bedding), where they hatch into little flea larvae.  Flea larvae are like a cross between a vampire and a zombies:  they hate light (like vampires) so they crawl around in the depths of the carpet or underneath the bed and into cracks in the floorboards;  here they crawl slowly and aimlessly (just like zombies), hoping to find old skin cells or flea poop or other debris to eat.  Once the larva matures, it forms a silk cocoon, maturing over 2 weeks, then lying in wait for the vibrations, heat, or carbon dioxide of an unsuspecting host.  Mature fleas can wait for many months inside their silk cocoons before a host approaches, at which point they spring out of their hiding place, jumping onto a new animal and starting the cycle over again.

 

Signs of Flea Infestation:

    Fleas crawl all over your dog or cat, from head to toe, but most animals tend to scratch at one specific area—the area just in front of the tail on their back.  This area is usually the first to show signs of hair loss and irritation.  Seeing this pattern of hair loss almost always indicates flea allergy.  You may also notice small pepper-like flakes in your animal’s fur.  No, Fido and Mittens haven’t been raiding the spice rack (or maybe they have, knowing my personal pets), but these little black specks are the signs of flea poop, the end result of a day filled with blood meals.  Of course there are other types of allergy than can cause similar signs, but none is as easy to treat as flea allergy.

 

What’s the Antidote for Vampires and Zombies?:

    Fortunately, we have some FANTASTIC flea treatments available in the veterinary world.   All are aimed at putting a big STOP SIGN in place at some step in the flea life cycle, preventing fleas from continuing to multiply.  The treatments are generally either topical drops or oral medications, both of which are super easy to administer, allowing flea protection for 1 or 3 months (depending on product).  The nice thing about these products is that they are actually effective, as opposed to the old flea bath/flea collar combination that never did work as advertised.  If you’re already using flea protection for Fido and Mittens, GOOD JOB.  Your pet is happier and healthier because of it, and your house is a cleaner, safer place for them to live.  Remember, it is important to put a stop to all fleas in the environment, so all dogs and cats must be treated to gain true control of the problem.

    The second phase of treatment for fleas is household cleaning.  Remember all those eggs being dropped onto the carpet?  50% of eggs can be eliminated by frequent vacuuming, helping to prevent the larval stages from doing their zombie-crawl.  In addition, there are household parasiticides available that help to control the remaining flea issue, but they usually only have to be used in a severe infestation.

 

AM I SAFE NOW???:

    Yep, year-round flea protection of all household pets is usually all you need to prevent those Zombie and Vampire outbreaks from ever becoming a problem.  Which really is quite a feat if you think about it—Hollywood’s been trying to kill the undead since 1922 (first sighting of mainstream Dracula in Nosferatu)…

 

 

Please feel free to distribute this article (at no charge) via all media— all we ask is that you give credit to the author Dr. Adam Lauppe. You will find him at the best veterinary hospital in Merced, California– Valley Animal Hospital. www.vahmerced.com  and www.valleyanimalmerced.com