Fleas, fleas, fleas....
Fleas fleas fleas . . . . One of the more common issues treated by veterinarians, especially on the coast, is fleas. Fleas are not just a nuisance to owners and pets, they can harbor and spread disease, drain blood sometimes to the point of critical anemia and cause allergic reactions.
Specific diseases and or pathogens that fleas can harbor and transfer to your pet include tapeworm infection, blood borne disease like Bartonella and viral infections that can cause significant ailment.
One of the more common concerns that comes into the veterinary clinic everyday is allergic dermatitis associated with fleas bites. Just like humans, some cats and dogs react differently and are more allergic to insect bites then are others. With flea bite hypersensitivity, one single adult flea can jump on a patient, bite them and the allergic reaction to the flea's saliva can be severe. Clinical signs associated with flea bite hypersensitivity can include wet and crusted spot over the lower back, tail head, inner thighs, belly, neck and ears. Overall the patient's skin can have a red to pink color and in severe and chronic situations the skin can become scaled and hair is lost. Cats with flea bite hypersensitivity will more commonly have little pin point lesions around their face, ears and back. All patients will itch excessively and have the potential to cause further skin damage resulting in infected depending on how aggressive they scratch their skin.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Typically the diagnosis is made by either presence of fleas and or specific patterns of lesions on the skin. But almost all of the time the history will include either a lack of flea preventative or a very large quantity of flea infestation in the environment. Treatment is case specific but typically will include short term corticosteroids, antibiotics and flea preventative. It is common however for patients that are allergic to fleas to also have either food related allergies or environmental allergies as well. This would have to be diagnosed and discussed with your veterinarian.
Often with allergies, flea allergies are the easiest to treat because simple flea preventative can eliminate the problem almost completely. Some flea preventative monthly products are better then others, some are oral and some are topical. Ultimately it is case specific for which product is best for your patient and that would need to be discussed with your veterinarian.
Overall flea bites are easy to eliminate and with simple preventative medicine we can eliminate a lot of suffering for our pets. Please consider talking with your veterinarian to define the best product for your pet.
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