Ask a Vet: A Surprising Wintertime Risk to Your Pets

Alexandra

Alexandra McLaughry, DVM, is a graduate of University of Oregon and University College Dublin Veterinary School. She works at VCA East Mill Plain Animal Hospital and cares for her own dogs, cats, and children in Portland, OR.

Q. What are you talking with your clients about right now?

A. Still keeping up with flea control even through the winter. I am still seeing a lot of fleas on pets, despite the cold weather.

Q. How do I know if my dog has fleas?

Fleacomb

A. I use a flea comb (fine tooth comb) and will trap fleas in it or flea dirt, which looks like black specks. If you put those black specks on a white paper towel and add water, you can smear it to reveal blood. The blood is actually flea poop.

For more information about the health risks of fleas, and how to use flea control medication safely, please see this FDA newsletter article.

Q. Do I need to ask my vet about flea control, or can I just buy it online or at Costco?

A. Where and who you buy the flea treatment from is just as important as the type of flea treatment. If your dog has a reaction to a product and you bought it online or at a big box store you are left without help for treatment. Big box stores don’t buy the products from the actual manufacturer, but from other people or business owners, so the manufacturer cannot guarantee that the product has not been tampered or is from the USA.

Q. What happens if my dog has an adverse reaction to a flea control medication?

A. If you bought the same product from a veterinarian, your veterinarian will do an exam, treat for the adverse reaction and report it to the company, so you can be promptly reimbursed for treatment by the veterinarian and for the flea product.

There were 44,000 complaints made to the EPA regarding topical flea prevention medications in 2008. Almost none of them were purchased from a veterinary office.

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