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.