Focus on the textbook I reminded myself for the hundredth time. But before I was able to delve back into my study guide, I heard it again: cling cling cling cling cling— the jingling sound Magic’s collar made while he desperately scratched an intense itch. Once he repeated this very loud and exhausting routine, I slammed my book shut in frustration and abandoned my homework pile to find him.
Upon entering the living room where Magic’s favorite bed was kept, I found he had tied himself into a dog pretzel, vigorously gnawing a spot above his tail. I parted his fur on the lookout for some type of irritated rash, but saw a black bug spring out of sight. Can’t be fleas, I thought. Magic hadn’t been around many dogs recently other than the occasional nose-touch during his daily walk. I thought I must have imagined it. After a few more minutes spent listening to Magic drive himself up the wall, we soon were on our way to the vet.
Magic’s veterinarian explained that he did in fact have fleas, which he could have picked up by running through the grass. They aren’t only spread through dog-to-dog contact as I had previously thought. Even indoor-only animals can catch them if a flea is unknowingly brought inside by a human. I was also surprised to learn that fleas don’t only live on animals, but also survive in any environment where the host spends time. An environment cozy enough for a flea could very possibly be grass, and I was horrified to discover— so could carpet, furniture, and pet beds.
Immediately upon returning home, I gave Magic and my cat Midnight the flea prevention I purchased at the clinic— even though I hadn’t seen Midnight scratching quite as much as Magic, the probability that the fleas he brought into the house had also set up shop in her fur was high, so she also needed treatment just in case. Their veterinarian advised me to not use over-the-counter topical treatments because they do not work as effectively. I also ditched all the old pet beds and quickly set to work vacuuming the carpet, rugs, and couch so ferociously I broke a sweat, thinking They could be laying eggs inside my couch right at this very moment! I became so consumed by my flea-phobia I briefly considered vacuuming the dog too, but thankfully snapped out of that crazy idea.
I also remained vigilant in my search for tapeworms, which grow inside the animal’s intestine if they eat a larvae-carrying flea while grooming themselves. Their veterinarian told me if they had tapeworms, I would probably find pieces of little white worms that look like grains of rice in their stool. But aside from the huge “ew” factor, tapeworms are usually not serious as long as they are treated quickly with a prescription.
In retrospect, my flea-phobia was a bit extreme. I was relieved when everyone at the clinic told me fleas are a very common problem they see here in Texas. Even though fleas and tapeworms are quite a nuisance, they are treatable with the proper know-how. Three months of flea prevention treated Magic and Midnight’s fleas effectively while helping prevent future infestations. By giving prevention consistently and cleaning our house thoroughly (with no flea egg left behind), our personal Great Flea Infestation of 2015 was history.
Fleas can be treated most effectively with veterinarian recommended flea prevention. Avoid over-the-counter flea prevention, which is often ineffective. Because fleas multiply quickly, they should be treated as soon as possible to avoid a large infestation, severe itching, infections, or tapeworms. For smaller animals such as puppies and kittens, a large infestation could become dangerous and cause anemia or dehydration. If your have a flea infestation in your home, give 3 months of flea prevention to pets, clean, and vacuum to be sure offspring and eggs don’t linger.