FLEAS: Prevention is Key

FLEAS, FLEAS, AND MORE FLEAS……that is a frequent complaint this time of year. It seems that every year a new group of unsuspecting victims fall prey to this dreaded infestation. I do mean infestation! The flea life cycle is a mystery to many people. When we explain the process to rid your home and pets of this parasite, people are shocked by the time and money required to treat these FLEAS!

The flea life cycle thrives in warm and humid weather. Many think late summer is when you need to think about flea treatment. That is not correct. Fleas hatch year round if conditions are ideal. Further South where there is not a winter season, they fight fleas year round. Therefore, all snowbirds must do year round flea and tick preventatives on their pets. If you board, groom, train, and or visit dog parks with your pets during the cold season of the year you should do year round flea and tick prevention. Fleas can live on animals even during the winter months and if your pet comes in contact with a flea infested animal and is not on prevention…. guess who’s going to have some new pesky creatures?

Fleas are very hardy and have 4 stages of their life cycle. Only the adult flea lives on the animal. They usually will not live on humans unless the infestation is so heavy they bite for a blood meal. Beauticians have reported finding fleas in human hair. Others have indicated they have been bitten when sitting in their chairs or walking through their homes.

dog-1559746_640The adult flea is brown and quite small. They jump and scurry through the hair. They do not fly. It is extremely difficult to see them in small numbers since they attempt to move away from your hands as you part the hair looking for them. Each adult flea can lay more than 2000 eggs in its lifetime. Each egg rolls off the pet and/or animal wherever the animal goes. If it is a small cat or dog and they go under the bed, you will have flea eggs under the bed. If they go behind the chair or under the table, you will have flea eggs in those areas as well.   If they sleep in your bed eggs will be in your sheets and/or on the comforters. The eggs hatch and a small larva emerges. This larva feeds on flea dirt and the crumbs in your carpets and cushions. After a few days it becomes a pupa and undergoes a transformation into the adult flea within the protective casing of the pupa.   Now this is where it gets extremely frustrating. NOTHING kills the pupa. This protective casing is resistant to most chemicals that we have to fog or bomb or spray our homes. Our topical flea products do nothing to this stage of the flea cycle.   When winter comes and we turn on our heat, this stage of the cycle goes dormant. It waits until the warm and humid weather returns before choosing to hatch and start the cycle over again. THEREFORE many people get a false sense of security thinking they have the problem under control but it is still there lurking in the home waiting for warmer weather.

The reason we see so many fleas this time of year is because fleas have been laying eggs in your environment since April. The numbers reach a peak based on how many eggs have been laid.   We get our hot humid weather making conditions ideal and our pets become infested by the large number of fleas emerging.

So now your are most likely disgusted and asking yourself HOW DO WE BATTLE THIS INFESTATION? Start flea prevention as soon as warm weather returns. Some years that is March. Also, if you have had a flea problem on your pets be sure to do year round prevention for the first year making certain when a pupa hatches, the adult flea feeds, and it dies before infesting your home again. Dogs and cats share fleas so indoor only cats are at risk especially if living in a home with dogs. Never use dog flea products on cats since toxic reactions can occur. If you have flea problems washing as many blankets, comforters, rugs, etc., can eliminate numbers of eggs, larva, and pupa in the home. Vacuuming can reduce numbers as well but make certain you empty your bag or canister since the fleas have been known to escape. Foggers and sprays can help reduce numbers too, but remember they cannot get under beds, behind couches, in closets, etc., where many pets leave eggs behind.

So the best method to battle flea infestations is to keep every pet on flea and tick prevention. There are multiple products with a large difference in price. Recently many generics have come available. I do not have the space to discuss the pros and cons of all the flea products on the market but I will share information about the newest products on the market. There are now oral flavored flea and tick preventatives. The two top contenders are Bravecto and Nexgard. Bravecto is a soft chewable treat that is good for 3 months. Nexgard is a chewable treat given monthly. Both have a good palatability rating and have been given to a large number of dogs in the last 2 years since they came available. If someone has fleas, I make a point to prepare them for 3 months of flea issues. Knowing the environment is infested it can take that long before no new fleas will emerge. One chewable Bravecto will cover those 3 months.

If you have been using one product and fleas are still present, talk to your veterinarian. A new type of prevention may be recommended. Resistance has been talked about in areas around the country and maybe it is time to try a different product on your pets. There are products out there that are very inexpensive that I would avoid. They never worked when they first came out and they still do not work today.

To wrap this FLEA BLOG up…..PREVENTION IS THE KEY! Protect your pets always and you will not be disappointed. Do not go the “cheap” route. Treat all pets including your indoor only cats. Have a fun fall, free of fleas!

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Why is “Pet Selection” Important

IMG_2759In the last many years, I have started talking more about pet selection with clients and potential new pet owners. This topic has been around a long time but many people believe they already know what pet would be best for their situation.   In my years of observing pet owners I have developed many reasons to disagree with this statement.

With the numbers of pets in shelters and foster homes on the rise, we definitely have owners that are not being responsible after getting their new pet. Why would they chose to not care properly for that pet? What causes them to not search for that pet after it is missing?   If you stop and think about it, the pets you see in shelters are not puppies and kittens. They are the adult pets that have broken the bond with their owners and have been forgotten. People abandon their pets because that pet did not match their family or lifestyle.

The lack of training, exercise, and socialization of a young puppy or kitten is a big issue. I wish all puppies and their owners were required to take puppy classes. I would like to see cats go more places with their owners so they would become more tolerant of new situations or people. The only place many kittens or cats go is to the veterinarian. If every time you got into your car you went to the doctor, wouldn’t you decide not to get into that car? The window of opportunity to socialize a new kitten or puppy is very short. Behavioralists feel most kittens need lots of human contact prior to 9 week of age to be well adjusted as adult cats. With puppies that time frame is 16 weeks. Therefore, if getting a new pet you must find time in the first many weeks to expose that pet to as many people, of all ages, as well as new experiences.

So how does this relate to pet selection? If you have a very busy schedule and are gone 10 hours a day maybe this is not the best time for you to get a new pet.   If you live in the Midwest and have to walk your pet in the winter and that does not appeal to you then you should reconsider getting that puppy at this time. Maybe you just had a baby and thought it would be great to let the pet and child grow up together, but did not realize that having a pet is like having another child in the house. The pet you selected is destroying your furniture, chewing up your shoes, peeing in the wrong places, scratching or biting you or your family members and none of this is what you expected. Let me tell you, all these things are normal behaviors, but with training and patience they can be corrected. Of course you must have the right advice and the time to spend teaching your pet good behaviors.   If we waited to give our children boundaries until they were 16 do you think we would have much success making them well adjusted adults? I have many clients who tell me that their pet is to young to start training. A puppy and kitten go from birth to 16 years of age in their first year when comparing them to our years. We need to mold their behaviors starting at the toddler stage which is the first few months.

Pet Selection tests are available online from a variety of resources. Some are designed to help you find the right breed of dog for your family. I would encourage you to first take a pet selection test to determine if your family is ready for the pet you think at this time. If the test suggests you get a dog, then take the dog breed selection test to determine what type of dog would be best for your family and lifestyle. Here is one of many pet selection quizzes: What Pet is Best For You? – AllTheTests.com. When taking this test you must be completely honest about how much time and money your family will have to care for your new pet for the next 15-20 years.

At Winterset Veterinary Center we would love to help you decide if this is the right time for a new pet. Or what type of pet would be best. When selecting a pet you need to make a lifetime committement to care for it emotionally, physically, and financially. Make certain all of your pets have FOREVER HOMES!

Contact us at 515-462-2650. Our hours are M-F 7:30 – 5:30 pm, Sat 7:30 – 12:00 pm.

Welcome to our new blog!

Why do dogs eat grass? Why do cats not use the litter box?   How do I know what is the best pet for me? What do you mean there is no such thing as a free kitten?

Now that I have your attention, I would like to start a blog that I hope will help educate pet owners about a variety of subjects. In 1988, when I got my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree, I never imagined how much change I would see in my lifetime. The thought that someday I would write a “Blog” never crossed my mind. Of course that word was not even in a Webster dictionary at that time.

My bio is printed on our website at Winterset Veterinary Center so I do not intend to repeat that information. I do live in a small community of about 5000 people but the information shared here should apply to all pet owners.   I decided to start a blog since often I get asked the same questions or I hear the same issues from clients. I have always felt that one of my strongest assets is my ability to educate people about pets. I enjoy my time in the exam room getting to know my clients and their pets. I hope as this blog gets shared that you may find helpful information that could improve and extend the life of your pet.

I intend to start slow and make certain that at least once per month I post a new blog. I plan to begin with the basics and then as I get a feel for my audience adjust where needed. I can be reached at the Winterset Veterinary Center if you ever want to offer suggestions or topics. I cannot guarantee that I will alter my direction but am always open to ideas.

I want to clarify that I am not claiming to be an expert. I am not hoping to become the Dr. Oz of Veterinary Medicine. I just have knowledge and advice that has often been appreciated by those who see me at Winterset Veterinary Center. All the information available at the click of a button can leave one overwhelmed and confused about pet care. My goal is to be practical so you can make decisions about your pets.

I hope you will follow me on this journey or at least stop by on occasion if there is something that peaks your interest. We all have one thing in common, that pets improve our life just by being in it!

Dr. Lonna Nielsen

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