Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The suburban F bomb: Fleas

Yesterday I saw something for the very first time in our four-year tenure in Centerpointe:
It's very a propos that the maker labeled the genitals, given that reproduction is what fleas do best.

Diagram screengrabbed from Wikipedia.  
We do our own dog grooming (it's extremely labor-intensive and very expensive to get a large dog groomed professionally).  We do shaving and trimming outdoors on a table we have set up behind our garage.  Our dog has been kept up-to-date on her Spinosad (Comfortis, which is a highly effective oral flea treatment and preventative) so imagine my surprise when I began shaving her only to discover that she was hopping with fleas.
Proud pic taken post-grooming yesterday:  The spiffiest, handsomest GCARC alumna in all of League City.

Let me say it again because it's important: Four years I've been regularly shaving and grooming this dog, and not once during that time did I find a single flea.  Until yesterday, that is.  This dog spends most of her days snoozing underneath my home office desk and serving as my official foot-warmer.  You better believe she's the cleanest mutt in town.  
Here's the scary part for all of you:  Given that our dog doesn't "have" fleas per se, and given that there are none in our home, and given that any dog correctly dosed with Comfortis simply can't support an active flea population (they will die as soon as they bite - that's the happy miracle of Spinosad), what likely happened yesterday is that the live fleas all piled on her as soon as she stepped outside our door.

In other words, the concentration of fleas in our external environment appears to be abnormally high right now (abnormal relative to the levels I observed historically).  There are probably a couple of factors contributing to this:

  • It's mid-summer, the time of year when fleas are at their most active.

Well, according to this screengrab from Weather.com, they're active year round here, but maybe the 2014 polar vortex had something to do with a summer surge this year.  

  • We seem to have a larger-than-usual concentration of outdoor dogs in Centerpointe right now.  Consistent with this observation, did you notice that most recent email blast from the POA?  Here's an excerpt:

From an email in late May 2014.  It seems like barking issues have been on the upswing.  Think about what that implies:  If a dog's owner is ignoring their dog's physical and social needs to the point where the neighbors are ready to call the police because of the resulting barking, how likely is it that the owner is attending to their dog's medical needs??  Answer:  Not too friggin' likely.    
I have definitely noticed an increase in the number of people keeping outdoor dogs on our side of the subdivision.  Furthermore, I've noticed that some families who formerly kept their dogs primarily inside have transitioned to keeping them outside.  Overall, the number of outdoor dogs has increased, and here is my concern with that:  People who keep their dogs outdoors aren't always as diligent about grooming and flea-treating because they have so much less physical contact with their animals.  They figure, "Our dog doesn't come into our house, so who cares whether it gets those expensive parasite medications on time?"

I will tell you who cares - your neighbors care very much, especially your neighbors who walk their own dogs and then return with those dogs to their homes.  Those neighbors don't want high concentrations of fleas hitching a ride on their treated dogs long enough to get inside.  For while fleas can't survive on a medicated dog, if they get a toe-hold in a residence they can instead thrive quite nicely on the blood of humans and other pets that may be present.  And the quality of your life goes downhill on roller skates from there, because fleas are profoundly difficult to eradicate once established in a home.

So please double check your dog's parasite maintenance schedule and treat him or her if necessary.  Like, immediately, because something seems to have happened to change our flea status quo here, and by my observation, it has happened for the worse.
Moral of this story:

If you have an inside dog, even if that dog is treated with effective products such as Comfortis, Trifexis, or Advantage, you would be wise to keep a closer watch on both the dog and your home.  This Aggie site describes the steps that should be taken in addition to dog treatment to ensure that a flea infestation does not occur.   Screengrab above from that site.  

I try to explain to my teenager what life was like before we all had access to technologically-advanced products for flea control, but it's another one of those phenomena like rabbit ears and rotary dial telephones.  You can explain until you're blue in the face, but unless you've lived it, it's just a vague notion of little relevance.  People of my generation will fully understand this meme above.  Younger generations, not so much.  

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