Pet Care Articles
Back to main articles list...
Why is Only One of My Pets Bothered by Fleas?
As the weather warms up, parasites such as fleas and ticks are starting to appear. Over the winter months, fleas and ticks have been dormant, residing in well protected cocoons that resisted the cold weather.
Now that things are looking a bit sunnier, fleas and ticks will soon be emerging from their resting places, ready to seek out any warm-blooded animal or person that happens by. Now is the time, before fleas and ticks are biting your pet, to become proactive in trying to prevent future problems. If you had problems with fleas last year, there two things you can do to give your pet an advantage this year. First, steam clean all the carpets in your house. I know you probably did that at the end of flea season last year, but to be extra safe and kill any cocoons that may still be hiding in the deep recesses of your carpeting, another steam cleaning is inexpensive and easy to do. Second, now is the time to apply beneficial nematodes, microscopic worms which kill fleas, to your yard. Because nematodes are the ONLY environmental treatment that actually kills the cocoons (no chemicals do this,) they are my preferred treatment for the outdoor environment. Additionally, if applied in the spring, you can probably kill the cocoons before adult fleas begin emerging, seeking out your pet.
While fleas often attack all of the pets in a household, it's not uncommon for them to prefer only one pet. Just today I saw a client who has two dogs and two cats in her household. She was surprised to find that only one of her pets, a small Cavalier King Charles spaniel, seems to be a flea magnet. Additionally, this poor spaniel was also quite irritated by the fleas and was constantly itching. She asked me how it was possible that 4 pets lived in her house and spent time in the backyard, but only her poor Cavalier seem to be bothered by the fleas.
Fleas and other insects often prefer to bite and feed on one person or pet, at times to the total exclusion of the other warm-blooded creatures in the area. For whatever reason, her little Cavalier had become the meal of choice by the fleas in her house and yard. Additionally, her dog suffered from a flea hypersensitivity, a form of allergy to the flea saliva. Even if she saw fleas on her other pets (which I'm sure she would if she looked hard enough,) the other three pets did not have a flea hypersensitivity and really were not bothered by any fleas getting on them and biting them.
Unfortunately, if she only treated her Cavalier for flea problems, she would never stand a chance against the fleas. Not only did I instruct her that environmental treatment (both inside and outside the house) would be necessary, but unless she treated the other three pets any efforts made with flea control would ultimately prove futile. That's because the other three pets, even though not bothered by fleas, still harbored fleas and serve as their blood meal necessary for reproduction.
The rule for proper flea control is simple: all animals in the environment must be treated EVEN if no fleas are seen on them.
While I appreciated that this owner preferred not to use any chemicals, because all of her pets were involved and because her Cavalier itched excessively, I convinced her that a totally integrated program using natural therapies and chemical therapies would be needed to achieve the best results in the shortest amount of time.
I prescribed beneficial nematodes for her to apply to the yard. This totally natural therapy is also the ONLY one that kills the resistant cocoon stage of the flea life cycle. In the house, she thoroughly mopped her wooden floors and sprayed organic citrus oil in the areas where her pets spent most of their time. Because all four pets liked to sleep on her bed, I also instructed her to wash the sheets and pillowcases daily in warm or hot water.
To help kill the fleas on her pets I prescribed frequent bathing with an organic shampoo (Dr. Shawn’s Organic Flea & Tick shampoo, which I designed to be used frequently to kill fleas and heal itchy and inflamed skin,) and to apply a topical chemical flea control called Frontline every one to two months for two applications or until she no longer saw fleas on any of her pets.
To give immediate relief to her Cavalier, I prescribed low-dose prednisone therapy to be given daily for five days. Additionally, for long-term control for the itching, I prescribed a natural antioxidant called Proanthozone and an herbal remedy called DTX Allergy.
I told her that by following this integrative approach, I expected the flea problem to brought under control within just a few weeks.
Copyright 2010, Paws & Claws Animal Hospital, All Right Reserved