Friday, October 19, 2007

When Dog Fleas Attack!

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Four officers investigating a burglary were attacked, not by a fleeing burglar, but a swarm of fleas in a filth-ridden vacant house. The tiny, biting attackers were so overwhelming that the South Bend patrolmen had to be decontaminated and ended up being sent home early from their shifts. Stokes said the house's tenants had recently been evicted, but returned periodically to feed a dog tied up in the backyard and allowed it to run around inside the garbage-filled house.

Fleas are bad enough. But, when they infest a place, they can be horrible. The first time I encountered fleas was in 1986. I had gotten my first dog, Kate, and had taken her to Marymoor Park's off leash area in Redmond, WA. My pup had gotten a greeting from a particularly scruffy black dog, I didn't feel good about it, so I left the area. Sure enough, when I got home, I found fleas on her. I bathed her and figured that was the end of it. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Fleas had buried themselves in my car on the way home. It took a long time to get rid of those fleas.

I figure that the fleas you encounter at off leash parks are the military type. They've fought man wars with many other fleas, been in combat with any number of dog owners, survived all mankind's WMD's, and have a variety of medals on their chests for their doggie conquests. I dipped and sprayed Kate. I gave her white pills that were a kind of internal insecticide (an early version of insecticides like FrontLine that are absorbed into the dog's body, and supposedly kill the fleas that bite the dog). I sprayed my yard. I bombed the house with foggers I purchased from my veterinarian. I tried herbal remedies (which were pretty much worthless). And they still kept coming. It took months and repeated treatments to kill them off. Even then, they would get inside the walls, stay dormant for months, and come out if there was any humidity or wetness to re-activate their eggs. Kate became sensitized to their bites, and then, for the rest of her life, she'd get some large, ugly looking, blood red, wet sores on her tummy after she'd been bitten. Sometimes that was the first clue we had a flea somewhere. Since all this happened in the mid-1980's, I figure that maybe these were survivors of Saddam's WMD attacks against Iran. These blood suckers were nasty. They could survive anything.

And they bit me, too! Until then, I didn't realize that fleas would bite people. They gave me some pretty itchy welts that took days to go away. I later found out from real estate agents that they would sometimes encounter hungry fleas in vacant homes for sale. They'd get bitten pretty badly. Old timers know to recommend to sellers that own dogs to bomb / fog their homes if they are going to be left vacant during the sales process. Nothing like a flea infestation to kill a sale.

The nice thing about moving to Arizona is that there aren't fleas here. Wrong climate. Instead, we get ticks. Sigh. Ticks. Seems that monsoon season, from about July through August, is tick season, with the high humidity being the factor that causes them to grow and spread. Ticks aren't so bad as fleas, however they carry tick borne diseases that can kill a dog. I know someone who lost their Akita a couple of years ago to a tick borne disease. The good news is that it seems that the insecticides seem to be more effective in dealing with, and preventing, ticks. You just have to be diligent in spraying your yard and home, and treating your dog with a topical insecticide and/or dip.

1 comment:

Anna said...

I've had my dog, Lady, out here in AZ for about 3 years with never a flea or tick on her. Until...between last night and this morning 11/04/07, I've pulled 7! brown dog ticks off of her. When will this tick season end?!? Nothing I've found online gives any concrete information about Arizona's tick season, so all I can say is that they aren't done yet.