, Salem, MA


October 5, 2012

Vet Connection: A little bug can cause big problems for you and your pet

Yesterday a dying cat was presented to our hospital. She was about 10 years old, owned by a couple that had likely never taken her to the vet before. She was dehydrated and extremely pale, lying curled up on her side unresponsive and breathing very shallow breaths and her temperature was very low. The gentleman said to his wife, “Don’t worry, the vet will save her.” Unfortunately I could not. She had to be humanely euthanized. It was heartbreaking.

The saddest part about this cat’s death is that it was most likely preventable. This kitty was crawling with fleas. After she died fleas were jumping off of her like sailors off a sinking ship. They knew her lifeblood and their next meal was not flowing anymore. We had to perform an emergency flea cleanup to prevent the hospital from becoming infested.

Fleas infest and bite mammals to obtain a blood meal. They defecate “flea dirt” which looks like black coffee grounds all over the skin. Since one female flea lays 2,000 eggs and they hatch out in two weeks, you can have millions of fleas infesting a home by the end of the summer. The fleas living outside die in the frost that usually occurs in October, but indoors fleas live on. Fleas will usually parasitize your pets first. If the animal leaves the household they will then start biting humans. If you have flea bites you will notice little red itchy bumps usually around your legs and ankles but they could be anywhere on your body if fleas are in your bed.

Fleas may transmit a few diseases to people and animals. Fleas carry tapeworm larvae. If a pet chewing its fur ingests a flea it will get tapeworms. Fleas also transmit disease through biting. Bubonic plague, which is the bacteria Yersinia pestis, can be transmitted to pets and humans via flea a bite.

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