Great Outdoors: Don’t Let Fleas Ruin Your Day
March 2021 by Dr. Paris J. Revoir
Do you take your pup to the local dog park? On road trips? Or how about other places in the great outdoors, including your own backyard? The American Pet Products Association 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey showed that 37% of pet parents take their dogs on road trips. That’s almost double the number cited 10 years ago. So, we can safely say that pets these days are on the go. When pets are on the move, they may end up in places where unseen pests like fleas are lying in wait.
Fleas are like Superman. They have the ability to leap tall buildings (or as far as approximately 13 inches in a single bound).1 That’s 200 times their body length, which is about 1/12th of an inch long, with females being a little larger than males. When put in the context of a human being, if a 6-foot-tall person could jump like a flea, he or she could reach a height of 1200 feet!
In the great outdoors, fleas are ubiquitous, living on wildlife and in the environment; they have free access to dogs or cats who frequent these areas. Fleas jump on and quickly settle into the hair coat, making themselves at home and hard to see. Once a flea is on a dog or cat host, it quickly begins feeding on blood. Almost 25% of fleas are engorged after only five minutes on the pet, while 97% become engorged after one hour. Dr. Michael Dryden, DVM, MS, PhD of Kansas State University, states that a single flea consumes over 15 times its body weight in blood per day. Shortly after engorgement, female fleas begin laying up to 25 to 50 eggs per day.2 The eggs are laid on the host but soon fall off into the environment.
When examining patients who had fleas, the eggs would fall onto the exam room table, looking like grains of salt. Flea feces, or dirt, resembling pepper flakes, will also fall onto the table. And if that doesn’t gross you out, flea dirt is the digested, dried blood from a flea’s meal. Clients often thought that these black specks were just dirt on their pet, until they saw how the “dirt” turned a paper towel red.
Aside from the bloodletting, fleas spread disease-causing organisms, such as Bartonella henselae, the agent causing cat scratch fever. They also transmit Hemobartonella felis (recently renamed Mycoplasma haemophilus), which is the causative agent of feline infectious anemia. Additionally, fleas even transmit the plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. While the plague is rare, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports an average of seven human plague cases per year, typically seen in rural areas of the western U.S., often resulting in death. Plague is caused by the squirrel flea, (Oropsylla montana) rather than the flea we commonly see on our dogs and cats (Ctenocephalides felis).3 And finally, tapeworms are also spread to pets by fleas.
Year-round prevention as is recommended by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) an independent group of thought-leaders for fleas and ticks for your dog or cat. Protection is made easy for dogs over 6 months of age with the 12 weeks* of persistent preventive protection for fleas and ticks provided by BRAVECTO® (fluralaner), lasting almost three times longer than monthly treatments. The extended duration of BRAVECTO (fluralaner) has been shown over the course of a year to provide more protection than monthly products.4 Now with BRAVECTO® 1-MONTH (fluralaner) Chews, no matter what life has in store for your dog, you can trust that they’ll be well-protected and well-prepared.5 So have at it, get out there and visit the great outdoors!
1 https://www.canr.msu.edu/ipm/uploads/files/Fleas.pdf, Accessed January 26th, 2021
2 J Med Entomol. 1991 May;28(3):394-400. doi: 10.1093/jmedent/28.3.394.
3 Bitam, I, et al. International Journal of Infectious Diseases 14 (2010) e667–e676e668, Accessed January 26, 2021
4 Lavan, Robert, et al. Dog Owner Flea/Tick Medication Purchases in the USA. Parasites & Vectors (2018) 11:581.
5 BRAVECTO 1-MONTH: (https://www.merck-animal-health-usa.com/bravecto/1-month-chew-for-dogs), Accessed January 26, 2021.
About the author
Paris J. Revoir
Sr. Professional Services Veterinarian
*BRAVECTO kills fleas and prevents flea infestation. Bravecto Chew and Bravecto Topical for Dogs kills ticks (black-legged tick, American dog tick, and brown dog tick) for 12 weeks and also kills lone star ticks for 8 weeks. Bravecto Topical for Cats kills ticks (black-legged tick) for 12 weeks and American dog ticks for 8 weeks.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION:
BRAVECTO has not been shown to be effective for 12-weeks’ duration in puppies or kittens less than 6 months of age. Fluralaner is a member of the isoxazoline class. This class has been associated with neurologic adverse reactions including tremors, ataxia, and seizures. BRAVECTO Chew: The most commonly reported adverse reactions include vomiting, decreased appetite, diarrhea, lethargy, polydipsia, and flatulence. BRAVECTO is not effective against lone star ticks beyond 8 weeks of dosing. Seizures have been reported in dogs receiving isoxoline class drugs, even in dogs without a history of seizures. Use with caution in dogs with a history of seizures or neurologic disorders. BRAVECTO Topical Solution for Dogs: The most commonly reported adverse reactions include vomiting, hair loss, diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite, and moist dermatitis/rash. Bravecto is not effective against lone star ticks beyond 8 weeks of dosing. For topical use only. Avoid oral ingestion. Seizures have been reported in dogs receiving isoxoline class drugs, even in dogs without a history of seizures. Use caution in dogs with a history of seizures or neurologic disorders. BRAVECTO Topical Solution for Cats: The most commonly reported adverse reactions include vomiting, itching, diarrhea, hair loss, decreased appetite, lethargy, and scabs/ulcerated lesions. BRAVECTO is not effective against American dog ticks beyond 8 weeks of dosing. For topical use only. Avoid oral ingestion. The safety of BRAVECTO has not been established in breeding, pregnant and lactating cats. Neurologic adverse reactions have been reported in cats receiving isoxazoline class drugs, even in cats without a history of neurologic disorders. Use with caution in cats with a history of neurologic disorders.