Fleas and Ticks

Posted: Aug 28, 2013
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Or, "How One Hot Scientist and Her Pocket Protector Helped Pets."


I have a great deal of respect for most forms of life on this planet: wallabies, fruit bats, chupacabras, even the lowly sea slug. I make a living off of treating dogs and cats, so I owe the very roof over my family’s head to the existence of animals. But if I had to select two groups of animals and set them apart for special mention and a special form of loathing (kick them off the Ark so-to-speak) I would choose fleas and ticks. I'm sure in the grand scheme of things they must serve some higher purpose, but I am at a loss to see what it is. All they do is suck blood, reproduce and spread itchy misery and disease. If it were up to me (no offense, Mother Nature or Higher Power) they could be disposed of altogether and I would be perfectly content. I’m sure pets would agree with me on this one.

Grossness and plague-carrying aside, you can’t question their success and hardiness. Fleas are hard to kill with conventional means – I have tried to squoosh countless of them with my fingernail (no doubt exerting oodles of pounds-per-square-flea to no avail) but when I let up they just sit there staring at me, as if to say ‘nice try bub’ before hopping off to spread disease and suck more blood. Anemia can be a huge problem - I have had to administer blood transfusions to lots and lots of poor little cats and dogs who have almost literally been sucked dry of blood, not to mention the many diseases that can be passed on by the bite of an infected flea. Diseases like, oh, I don’t know, THE PLAGUE! Yes, that plague. The one that killed about 1/2 of Europe 600 years ago. That was fleas.

Below is a picture of one of my recent patients – a little stray dog who was severely anemic due to the thousands of fleas covering him all over. Luckily, due to a good bath, some flea combing and a flea treatment he has made a full recovery. See the second picture.

Tony Johnson's patient suffering from flea anemia

Thanks goodness some smart pocket-protectored, slide-rule wielding scientist-type (I like to think she’s someone who would be just stunning if she would only let down her bun and take off those darn glasses!) developed life-changing (for the flea) compounds that effectively and safely kill adults and prevent flea eggs from hatching.

Don’t even get me started on ticks. Let’s start with the name: "Tick." Seriously. Just say it. It sounds like you are trying to cough something up, and rhymes with yuck). Fleas are bad enough but they're small, easily missed. Ticks are like big, ugly, obese Jabba-the-Hut-looking things. They suck blood, transmit deadly diseases and are really, really ugly. It is somehow far worse to think of a big, engorged tick passing along nasty diseases while feasting on your pet’s blood than a tiny flea – at least for me. Ticks can carry diseases with well-nigh unpronounceable names like Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis, as well as better-known ones like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Luckily, that same scientist and her slide-rule also developed some pretty awesome compounds that work against ticks, so you’ll have to worry less about one of them latching on to your dog or cat in the future and causing badness. No more messy powders, stinky collars or kooky home remedies that have more place in a loaf of bread than in your dog. (Saccharomyces, I’m talkin’ to you!)

So with a little prevention in the form of flea products obtained from a veterinarian (there are dozens available now), everyone can keep pets are safe from the gross horrors and utterly unaesthetic unappealingness of disease-carrying fleas and ticks. All thanks to that hot scientist and her pocket protector. They could have used her during the Middle Ages. Science is so cool!