A Fright Fest of Fleas

Author: Lora Schuldt, DVM

October 24, 2017

Surprised cat

The real vampires this time of year are these blood-sucking parasites known to entomologists as Ctenocephalides felis (the comb-head cat flea). These aggravating arthropods are partying on your kitty's skin, and they can drive everyone batty. Although the cooler temperatures of fall mean less outdoor activity for cats, fleas also settle inside, making infestations more noticeable at this time of year. Your home can be a welcome residence for fleas, even if your kitty never leaves the house.

Are fleas just a nuisance to be tolerated? Your cat would certainly not agree. Flea bites may result in intense itching of the skin and can transmit a serious bacterial infection (Bartonella, aka "cat scratch disease") causing illness in both cats and humans. Kittens may even die from blood loss inflicted by fleas, and children are more likely to be bitten by fleas and be exposed to the diseases they may carry. It is also important to know that fleas only begin biting humans when owners sleep with their pets or when the flea population in the home is very large.

Another parasite linked to fleas is the tapeworm, Dipylidium canis. When cats lick fleas off their fur, they ingest immature tapeworms that then grow in the intestines of affected cats. While it is unusual for these tapeworms to cause illness, they do shed "segments" out through a cat's anus, which is an especially unpleasant situation!

We want to help each feline household remain flea-free year-round. We advocate selective flea prevention and control methods based on your cat's exposure, environment, and health status. We strongly recommend that no cat be given pyrethrin-based flea products, and never use a product intended for dogs on a cat. There are many pyrethroid-free treatments available that are safe for cats.

We are excited to add another safe, non-pyrethroid, easy-to-use topical treatment for flea elimination. Bravecto is unique in that it provides 12 weeks of excellent flea control in a familiar, one-dose, topical application. It is now available through Cats Exclusive Veterinary Center by prescription only. Bravecto is especially helpful at this time of year, when flea infestations may intensify before populations tend to reduce in late winter (in our area). Enjoy being flea-free in 2018!

See Flea Control for Cats for more information