“But Doc,” exclaimed the woman at her wits’ end, “we put those flea drops on at the beginning of the month like you said. How come they aren’t working?”
He had seen it before. He had said it before. Every August this broken record got more plays than Miley Cyrus at a ho-down.
“Remember Mrs. Umpitches: Last month Myra had several fleas when she came in. Each flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day. If she had had only five fleas on her at the time, they could have been depositing 250 eggs per day into her environment.”
“Those flea eggs are not sticky. They roll off of Myra’s body. Everywhere she walks she is acting like a little salt shaker, just shaking flea eggs off of her. Around the house, in her bed, in your bed, outside.”
Indeed, Myra Umpitches had come in at the end of June scratching herself raw and biting at her tail area. She had hot spots beside her tail and on both hips. She had plenty more than five fleas on her. Myra was not just a flea bag or flea market; she was a virtual flea bed, breakfast, and brothel!
But Mrs. Umpitches was one of those prissy types. The doctor had seen at least a dozen clients just like her every year that insisted that their pet could not possibly have fleas. If they did, of course, they would know. Because they are sensitive to fleas, too.
True to form, when the dashing young veterinarian pointed out a couple of fleas, Mrs. Umpitches was astonished. After deciding that these must be a new variety of flea that her ankles were not sensitive to, she assured him that her house was very clean.
“I know for a fact that your house is immaculate, Mrs. Umpitches,” the valiant flea-slaying prince proclaimed. “But the simple truth is, each and every one of our pets is susceptible to fleas.”
“The flea numbers build up each year in the spring and early summer. Every August, September and first part of October is essentially a smorgasbord for them. Anybody who has neglected to treat their pet with a veterinary-quality flea prevention is going to be coming in with fleas. Even the really clean pets from really clean houses. And yes, even the indoor-only pets.”
“However, even the good flea preventatives are not a magic bubble. When properly applied, fleas must still get on your pet in order to come in contact with the medication. Only then can the medication begin sterilizing, paralyzing or killing the flea.”
“If Myra had only had five fleas on her last month, and they had dropped 250 eggs per day, after one week she would have peppered her environment with more than 1,500 flea eggs.”
“Those eggs will hatch within the next two to four weeks after being deposited. The little larvae will migrate into cool shady areas, such as under the bed or couch. Then they become a cocoon, called a pupa. When they hatch from that, as baby fleas, they will jump onto Myra or any other pet.”
“At the end of the first month of treating Myra, there actually may be more fleas in her environment than there was at the beginning of the month. You will have to treat her for three to four months in order to break the flea life cycle.”
“Therefore, Mrs. Umpitches, Myra’s flea treatment is not a magic bubble that keeps fleas from getting on her at all. In fact, she needs the fleas to get on her in order for it to work. At the end of the first month you may see more fleas than you did at the beginning. But after a few months you can get the fleas under control.”
“Geez Doc,” Mrs. Umpitches swooned, “I never realized how amazing you veterinarians are. But take away your white coat and flea medication and what are you?”
“Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”
Yep. This broken record never gets old.
Dr. Adam Ferguson is co-owner of Baker Animal Hospital in Cridersville. He is on vacation.