The final installment of common myths I hear about fleas
Flea Myth #5: “Product X was ineffective because the environment was so infested.” The observed effect of a product, measured in terms of the number of fleas that can be found on a pet, may indicate that this is true in the case of a heavy flea burden. However, it is all a matter of percentages. If the product is even 90% effective, the manufacturer can claim efficacy. But, even leaving 5% of hundreds or thousands of fleas will be too many for a lot of dogs or cats to tolerate. The product may appear to perform adequately with a low flea burden in the environment, but not so well with a heavy burden, even though it kills the same percentage of fleas in both cases.
The fourth installment of common myths I hear about fleas
Flea Myth #4: “Cat and dog fleas don’t transmit diseases.” A number of important diseases are transmitted by fleas.
Cat scratch disease is caused by the organism Bartonella henselae. It is transmitted between cats by fleas. Many cats are infected without showing any signs, but they can serve as a source of human infection. Scratches and bite wounds from infected cats may result in cat scratch fever.
Tapeworms are most often acquired by cats with the help of fleas, which they ingest during the normal course of their grooming behavior.
Murine (endemic) typhus, caused by can Rickettsia typhi, be transmitted by cat fleas that infest your pets or wildlife that may share your environment. Most case in the US are reported in southern California, Texas, and Hawaii. Signs in people include headache, rash, and body aches that may last for months if untreated.
Rickettsia felis may cause fever in people, and is considered a disease of emerging importance. It is also transmitted by the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis, the most common flea of dogs and cats in the US.
The third installment of common myths I hear about fleas
Flea Myth #3: “We only saw a few fleas, so the house isn’t infested.” Not really. Because fleas are reproductive machines, there can easily be hundreds of fleas in the environment for every adult you see. Adult fleas are just the tip of the pyramid, and all the other life stages (eggs, larvae, pupae, pre-emerged adults) collect in the pet’s environment. And carefully flea combing for five minutes only turns up a fraction of the fleas on the average dog. So remember, if you find even one flea, there are hundreds more maturing shortly!
The second installment of common myths I hear about fleas
Flea Myth #2: “He couldn’t have fleas because he hasn’t been around other dogs.” In fact, once a flea acquires a host (i.e. your dog), she has found her happy place. The old saying that “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” doesn’t apply so well to fleas. They are content to stay on the same dog for their entire adult life span, typically 2-3 months. During this time, the female flea will be biting hundreds of times every day, and laying thousands of eggs that drop off into the environment. The environment is where the fleas wait to infest your pet (see Myth #1 for more details). So, it is not normally direct contact with another flea infested animal, rather just walking through the same premises as an infested animal, whether indoors or outdoors, that is the source of new flea infestations.
Fleas are amazing little creatures, in some respects. When they jump, they accelerate faster than the space shuttle and up to 150 times their body length. Female fleas consume 15 times their body weight in blood every day and can lay 2,000 eggs in a typical 2-3 month life span. Within a cocoon, the pre-emerged flea can live 100 days without a meal. There are other claims about fleas that are myths. Usually veterinarians hear these from pet parents that are in “flea-nial.”
Myth #1: “I would know if my dog had fleas, because they prefer me, and I’m not getting bites.” Not true. As tasty as your blood might be, the fleas found on dogs (which are almost always the cat flea species, Ctenocephalides felis), prefer dogs and cats to people. If you are getting bites, there is usually quite an infestation already. The reproductive capacity of the flea is such that just a few fleas can result in a massive infestation of your home within weeks. Most will be immature stages that you will not see until it is too late. Pre-emerged adult fleas lay in wait, emerging when they sense exhaled carbon dioxide, heat, or a shadow passing by. If you happen by the wrong location before your pet, the flea may bite you first, but dogs and cats are the preferred hosts.