Most pet owners will admit that while their animal companions are wonderful, intelligent and talented, they can sometimes be a little confusing. And by a little, we mean a lot. Thankfully, there are experts who can help us better understand our furry and feathered friends. Celebrity veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney is here to answer all of your perplexing pet questions about pesky pests and scary predators. See what he has to say.
When fleas go untreated, there are a variety of health conditions that can ensue. Fleas feed on the blood of the host (dog, cat, other) on which they land, and transfer bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms through their bite. Fleas also carry tapeworm. When your pet tries to manage the flea-induced itching by licking or scratching, the flea is ingested and tapeworm body segments (proglottids) emerge in pets' feces within a few weeks.
Besides the transmission of disease-causing agents, fleas also rob the body of vital nutrients in the process of taking their blood meals. As fleas feed between 10 or more times per day, anemia (low red blood cell count) can develop with a severe enough infestation.
Additionally, fleas shed bacteria like Mycoplasma haemophilis (formerly known as Haemobartonella felis) that ends up on the skin or in the mouth of their host. This can be transmitted to people and cause "cat scratch disease."
Depending on the food source and climate conditions, fleas typically survive between 30–90 days. According to Purdue University Extension Entomology data, female fleas "are capable of laying 25–40 eggs per day and have the potential to produce about 2,000 eggs in their lifetime." Basically, provided there is a blood supply, female fleas can continue to reproduce on a seemingly infinite basis.
The effectiveness of flea treatment has many components.
Oral treatments must be given only to animals with digestive tracts healthy enough to process food and absorb nutrients. If an oral treatment is given to a pet and the dose is subsequently vomited, then the medication is not going to be very effective.
Topical treatments must be applied appropriately to the surface of the skin, and absorbed or properly distributed in order to be effective. Most topicals rely on oil in the skin for distribution throughout the body to be achieved. If a topical treatment is applied directly before or after a bath (typically within minutes to 48 hours post-bath), then there’s insufficient oil in the skin to permit proper distribution. Additionally, if the product is applied within 48 hours before a bath, then it can be washed off during the bathing process or won’t distribute ideally.
In addition to oral and topical treatments, pet owners also must consider the effects environmental decontamination has in reducing flea infestations inside the home and outside in the yard. Vacuuming carpets and upholstery and washing all human and pet bedding every seven days is one way of reducing numbers of flea eggs, larvae and adult fleas.
Additionally, preventing wildlife and unfamiliar domestic animals from entering your yard or home can help to keep out fleas and ticks.
Any insect is capable of biting or stinging a pet and causing a inflammatory reaction. These mild to severe inflammatory responses, known as hypersensitivity reactions, involve a complicated process regulated by immune-system proteins known as antibodies.
In my clinical practice, bee stings are the most common reason dogs and cats present for hypersensitivity reactions. A variety of other arthropods, including insects (ants, fleas, flies, mosquitos, etc.), and arachnids (scorpions, spiders, mites, ticks, etc.) can bite or sting a pet.
Besides the inflammatory response produced by the exposure to venom inserted into the unlucky animal, the physical trauma caused by the bite or sting also causes pain and inflammation that must be addressed. For example, a bee’s stinger often remains behind in the skin of a stung animal and could become embedded in deeper layers of tissue. It takes weeks to months to push this foreign body out through the surface, during which there will be ongoing discomfort, inflammation and even infection that can contribute to lameness, persistent licking at the site or more serious side effects.
As cats are natural predators, it’s their inherent instinct to kill their prey. Humans may express disgust at cats’ choice of prey, but they are just acting on their instincts. Instead of shrinking in horror at discovering the “gift” your cat left on your doorstep, focus your attention on your feline friend’s health.
In the process of attacking and killing vermin, cats can incur bite wounds or scratches that subsequently need medical attention. It’s best that your cat has an examination with your veterinarian around the time of their contact with a rodent.
There is a high likelihood that skin or other bodily trauma can occur. Such injuries should always be evaluated by a veterinarian to initiate the most appropriate wound-care protocol (clipping the hair from the surrounding skin, cleansing with an antiseptic solution, application of topical antimicrobial appointment, oral or injectable antibiotic therapy, etc.).
In general, if your cat kills a rat, it’s not highly likely that a large quantity of a toxin, such as a rodenticide, will be consumed or contacted to actually cause a health problem.
Yet, there’s always the possibility that your cat could be exposed to an infectious agent from contact with a rat or its hair, feces, urine or other bodily fluid. If your cat has close contact with you or your family members, toxic agents or disease organisms can potentially spread.
As a general wellness practice, strive to keep your pets away from areas where they can come into contact with vermin and their lair.
Next: More Common Pet Myths!
With any interaction between a large dog and another creature, trauma causing mild to severe injury or illness necessitating evaluation and treatment by a veterinarian can occur. Frogs and lizards can be poisonous and therefore deadly to an unsuspecting canine or feline on the receiving end of a bite. The 12 Most Poisonous Frogs on Earth are listed by EnvironmentalGraffiti.com and the world’s poisonous lizards are indicated by Kids.Brittanica.com.
Besides being poisonous, a frog or lizard’s mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria capable of causing severe infection at the bite's wound site (abscess) and on a systemic (body-wide) basis, should bite-wound trauma occur. Most frogs are quite small and therefore unable to inflict any significant bodily trauma directly from their bite. Lizards vary in stature from small to quite large, and can inflict more serious wounds directly from their bite. It is important for owners to recognize that the damage that occurs as a result of an animal bite often is not obviously apparent right at the surface. As a result, having an examination of veterinarian is vitally important.
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