It’s the height of the summer heat and now’s when most of you are feeling the pinch ... of flea bites.
Whether they’re biting you or your pets, these creepy bouncies’ mouthparts are an unwanted pest on the canine, feline, or human terrain. But the bites themselves aren’t the worst part. Not by a long shot.
Though the bite of a flea may produce wheals and pustules on some pets (definitely on me should I get to scratching them), what really wreaks havoc on pet skin is the fleas’ saliva.
Yes, really: fleas have saliva. And some pets are uniquely sensitive to it. Thus, a single flea may bite your pet, jump immediately off, and nonetheless provoke a prolonged spell of itching and scratching. If you’re very lucky you’ll never even catch sight of the assailant.
But then, luck is in the eye of the beholder. For veterinarians like me, convincing a pet owner that flea allergies may play a role in his continuous itch-scratch cycle is often an exercise in futility. "My pets do NOT have fleas. Just look at how clean he is."
For these owners, the luck of never seeing a flea on their pristine pet equates to an impossible-to-convince owner unwilling to accept that testing is needed, or that an assiduous prevention plan is in order. Consequently, the animal is never treated and the disease continues unabated while the owner pursues his or her path to an allergy-free pet via less-than-fruitful avenues.
Not only does this scenario present itself to me daily in my own practice, it became clear to me very recently that my own dog was suffering from an allergy I couldn’t properly control. Though I was treating him with topicals (Advantage), administering allergy injections for his grass, tree, and mold allergies, and feeding him a limited-ingredient diet he’d always done well on, this summer proved a disaster. So off to the doggie dermatologist I went.
Once there, it didn’t take my favorite specialist long to discover the cause. In spite of his apparent flea freedom, he was diagnosed with flea allergies. A simple injection of the flea saliva under the skin (yes, it comes all ready in a vial, and most every dermatologist stocks this expensive stuff) proved it.
After switching to a popular once-a-month oral medication and a strong Permethrin spray (used every two months), he was almost 100 percent within two weeks. All it took was a fresh set of eyes and an owner willing to be convinced. We should all be so lucky.
Dr. Patty Khuly