Fleas, fleas everywhere, and not a drop to drink.

Fleas are definitely a big deal for any small animal practice in an area where there are fleas. And there are definitely fleas in Newfoundland. St John’s is chuckabuck full of fleas, not gonna lie. I’m sure fleas are a topic of conversation somewhere in the clinic at least once per day.

But I don’t want to talk about fleas at work, big topic as it might be. I want to talk about fleas in my life.

Now, some people have this perception that fleas mean an animal is not properly cared for, or the house they live in is not clean. This is not even a little bit true. If you are a cat or a dog, living in an area that has fleas, you can get fleas. Unless pet and owner alike never leave the house and live in a bubble, the fleas can find you.

Yes, it’s unlikely that an indoor only cat in a house with no pets that go outside will ever get fleas. And I have a dog who spends a lot of time outside, and I encounter fleas at work on a regular basis, but my cats (who never go outside) are not on regular flea prevention. The risk is low, the cost of prevention for 4 cats (3 of which are not small…) is not worth it.

I’m sure you can guess where this is going: all my cats have had fleas.

Before we all point the finger at Ollie, he is on Sentinel most of the year – this sterilizes any fleas that bite him. So while he may bring a flea into the house, that flea won’t make flea babies and one flea does not 4 cats infest. And my 4 cats were Infested. Capital I.

So where do we point the finger? My house. Never trust the house. I moved into a house in downtown St John’s, I knew the previous tenants had cats they let outside, I should have known better.  There are quite a lot of stray cats in downtown St John’s, and those cats are pretty much all flea bags. So unless you are very vigilant with your flea prevention, fleas will get into your house.

Of course, none of my cats are allergic to fleas and none of them got very itchy. I say “of course”, because if one of them were I could have figured out the situation before it got out of hand.  Fleas also don’t bite me, so I wasn’t experiencing mysterious rashes. Nope, I figured out I had a flea problem because I was sitting on the couch, and Fluff was on the ottoman staring at me…. and while I stared back, a flea CRAWLED ACROSS HIS NOSE. Ew.

A lot of the time I ‘diagnose’ fleas because of flea dirt – lil’ black specks in the fur, flea poop. Occasionally while you’re looking through an animal with lots of flea dirt, you spot an actual flea. If you see one flea, there’s probably a hundred. They’re quick little buggers. With my cats? I spotted an actual flea every time I parted their hair. We’re talking an obscene amount of fleas.

Of course, I have a key to the clinic, and middle of the night or not, I went to work and sold myself some Capstar (kills adults fleas within about 15 minutes, lasts 24 hours, it’s pretty magical stuff.). I had some Revolution for the cats already – long story short, if you use Revolution for 3 months your house will be flea free. I prefer this method as opposed to spraying my house with chemicals… mostly because I’m lazy.

You’re probably thinking, “Maggie, this sounds not so bad. Your cats weren’t bothered, you weren’t bothered, and you solved the problem pretty easy. Stop whining.” You, however, are forgetting one of the members of my household: Ollie.

Ollie is a large dog. Revolution or Advantage (another topical treatment) is very expensive for him, especially since the hospital I work at only sells as full packs of 6 and will not sell individual treatments. Sentinel, which he has, doesn’t kill adult fleas. When I first found the fleas, I didn’t see any signs of fleas on him. Once I started treating the cats, the cats became death traps for the fleas, and Ollie became their safe haven. Poor dear was itchy all the time. Every time he rolled over I saw fleas, yes, fleaS, crawl across his belly. I got him a Capstar to wipe out the first wave of fleas, and gave him a couple flea baths, but every day I saw fleas on him . . .  this went on for well over a month, until I scored a single dose of Revolution from a friend for him in the second month of treatment of the cats. It was a very long month for us both – admittedly, probably worse for him than for me… but he sleeps in my bed with me, and would wake me up with his scratching, so I was thoroughly annoyed believe you me.

So, lesson learned: if you move into a house in downtown St John’s, probably best to get your cats on flea prevention for a few months just in cases.

And if I’m being completely honest, this was a lesson I should have already learned – when I moved into a house in Guelph with Tristan, the house had fleas. When I mentioned it to my roommate who had already been living there? “Oh, yeah, there used to be a cat who lived here and went outside. And I have this weird rash on my ankles all the time.” THANKS! That situation was particularly frustrating, because nowhere in Guelph would sell me flea treatment without having seen any of my animals for an exam, which seemed a ridiculous waste of money, so I got Tristan a flea collar while I waited for some Advantage to arrive from my clinic in Ottawa. Tristan is my cat missing a front leg… putting a flea collar on him threw him for a loop and he was off balance for a whole day… literally walked with his head on the ground, pushing himself forward with his back legs… such a sin…

So, in the future, whenever I move into a house that has had previous occupants, I’d probably be better off just getting all my cats on Advantage or Revolution for the move, just in cases. You can ignore me if there are no fleas were you’re to . . . but otherwise, trust me when I say a flea infestation is not something you want to be worrying about while you’re settling into a new abode.

About dottiemaggie

A veterinarian living and working in St John's, Newfoundland. I love my job, and I love my home. Professionally I am passionate about critical care and client education. Away from work I am passionate about enjoying life, spending time with friends, enjoying hobbies of all sorts, and exploring this wonderful province I call home.
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10 Responses to Fleas, fleas everywhere, and not a drop to drink.

  1. Susan says:

    Twenty years ago I had fleas. I vividly recall screaming and crying as I stripped naked in the kitchen, then had bad dreams for months.
    I would agree that I overreacted.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      bahahaha, that’s kind of hilarious.
      (and, truth be told, I overreact to maggots. I don’t strip naked, thankfully, as I see maggots at work, not in the privacy of my own home…)

  2. JaniceP says:

    Another reason why I love Alberta – no fleas.

  3. linlah says:

    We had a bad flea infestation last spring but then we have one every spring and every spring we have a Capstar episode even though the dog is on Frontline all year. He’s highly sensitive and I get that ankle rash too so I know when it’s time to make the appointment.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      We don’t have Frontline up here, so I never remember what it does…
      but at least you know to expect it! Capstar is magic, I love it.. we had a cat in for a spay that was COVERED in fleas.. and after Capstar we’d see ’em literally drop off her and blanket the bottom of her kennel… so fascinating..

  4. frigginloon says:

    Sheez, I scratched and itched through the whole post , thanks 🙂

  5. Kate says:

    It makes me feel so much better that this happens to you…makes me feel like not a pet failure. Although you might be awarded a medal for letting Ollie continue to share your bed. When I found fleas on my dog, they were out in their kennel until I was 1,000% sure they were flea free. I made Josh take them from the garage and around outside to go to the bathroom. I was not taking any chances about having fleas jump from the dog into the house on the way outside.

    This is one of those instances where getting information from the internet is a VERY BAD IDEA. Pretty much every site told me that no matter what we did we would have fleas forever and ever. Amen. We cleaned like we have never cleaned before and it was during the summer (thank goodness) so we took anything that wasn’t plastic outside on our deck (all our mattresses, pillows, Finn’s stuffed animals…the neighbors probably thought we were crazy) and left them out there all day in the sun.

    We treated the dogs with medicine and I did a thorough inspection of them before they were allowed back in the house. Our cat never got them (thank goodness).


    • dottiemaggie says:

      ahahaha, I’d probably be a little more anal about fleas if they gave me a rash 😉 But, yeah, I definitely let Ollie in my bed.. unless he started scratching a lot, because the sound annoyed me ;P
      And I didn’t do any special vacuuming or washing (I do vacuum and wash bedding regularly, but I didn’t stray from my usual routine or schedule just because I had fleas in the house… ;P )
      I also haphazardly cuddle any and all animals that come to see me, and do not proceed to have a shit fit if I later diagnose them with mites or any sort…
      I’ve also never caught ringworm despite multiple exposures, so am pretty lax about precautions when dealing with ringworm suspect cases as well…
      This is probably why I shouldn’t have children… 😉

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