Dealing with a flea infestation is no different than working up a patient with another medical issue such as vomiting or diarrhea.
The presenting complaint of seeing fleas or flea allergic dermatitis is a clinical sign related to an underlying problem.
Whether or not a patient has secondary flea allergy dermatitis, we need to ask more questions to find the cause of the problem
in order to help our patients.
Communication is the key to success
Most pet owners do not understand flea control or how treatment products work. Veterinary clinics should be the source of
flea education for pet owners. It's helpful to train staff members to communicate with clients about flea control and how
to apply products, as well as handle complaints regarding product failure. The practice should develop a simple, consistent
message. This is a lot of information for busy clients to take in, so veterinarians need to make it as easy as possible.
IN ORDER TO INVESTIGATE FLEA INFESTATION, THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED:
- On which pets are you seeing fleas? How many fleas are you seeing on each pet?
- When are you seeing fleas? After the pet has gone outside? When the pet is on the furniture with you?
- Where (on your property) are you seeing fleas?
Outdoors: Do other animals have access to the yard? Where do you take your pets? How much acreage do you have?
Indoors: In which room(s) are you seeing fleas—the garage, screened porch, vehicle, or a pet carrier?
- Are all the dogs and cats in the home treated? How often are they treated?
- What flea-control product do you use?
- Where was the product purchased? You may not be the only practice that the family uses for all of their pets (i.e., cats, ferrets, etc.).
- Is the product an over-the-counter purchase?
- How are you applying product? A study has shown an average of 40 percent of product is still left in tube.
- Are you shampooing, wetting, or grooming the pet? Does the pet swim?
- Have there been visiting or untreated pets?
- Is there access under the house, deck, porch, or shed? These micro-climates are flea heaven. Advise the client to block them
off from pets and untreated animals.
Look like an expert
Simplify client education by using the flea-control communication aids provided by manufacturers.
Helpful handouts are available to educate clients, as are guides for the clinic to work through complaints regarding product
failure. For example, Merial® provides a client-focused flea handout called "The blood sucking menace." They also have a "Take
Control" chart containing many of the questions listed above. If all else fails, the company's technical support number is
at the bottom of the chart to help you get to the bottom of the situation. These aids make our jobs easier and help to provide
clients with a consistent message from everyone in the practice.
Explain how fleas get on their pets
When a pet has fleas, they have been in contact with an infestation site, where flea eggs have fallen from an animal. Potential
sites of infestation include the home, garage, vehicle, pet carrier, storage shed, yard, neighborhood, dog park, and even
doggie day care. Even wood floors are not a barrier, as eggs fit into the cracks and base boards.