The War of the Fleas
Posted by Admin Date August 10, 2015
Volunteer Cara, who commutes a really long distance on weekends to help at the club, was the first to notice that two of the dogs had fleas. One of Cara's many contributions to the welfare of the animals at the club is to spend time with the dogs and let them know that they are loved. Although Ken spends almost all his free time at the club, this is something that Ken and the paid staff never really have enough time for.

The dogs at the club are bathed twice a week, using warm water and medicated soap which contains amitraz, but fleas are hardy creatures. They can survive underwater for a very long time, and, unlike the mites which cause demodicosis (mange), they seem to be unaffected by amitraz.

Fleas are a serious enemy. Not only do they cause itchiness, rashes, and anemia, fleas are also an intermediate host of the tapeworm parasite. Unless dealt with swiftly, a flea problem can lead to numerous secondary problems.

Worst of all, fleas hop onto fur or human clothing and from there onto other dogs or cats, spreading very quickly from animal to animal. This is probably how the fleas got into the club - by hopping on to one of our dogs when it was being walked.

We knew we had to take swift and unrelenting action.

Ken declaring war on the fleas.

We opted for a two-pronged attack. Even though it was late in the afternoon, we quickly started giving the dogs baths with Sergeant's Skip-flea, a very effective anti-flea shampoo intended for cats, until we ran out. We did this outside, so we wouldn't have to risk exposing the cats by carrying the dogs to bathroom, which is situated inside the cat house. Simultaneously we once again raided our emergency fund and rushed to the veterinary clinic. The clinic was out of fipronil spray, which is the most economical solution, but it was an emergency so we got a fipronil spot applicator for each dog. By the time we got back it was already dark, so we hunkered down for the night.

The next morning, on Sunday, with Ken indisposed with a fever, 14-year-old Steven put on latex gloves and went to do battle with the fleas.

Steven applying fipronil to Brownie.

While a formidable enemy, there was no way the fleas could bear the force of a full Frontline assault by HAC staff and volunteers. The fleas had a few million years of experience with parasitism, but we had the financial backing of our donors and modern science on our side. The operation was a success and as of Monday night, we have only found dead fleas on the dogs. Bathing is suspended for 3 days to allow the spot applicators to do their work; on Thursday all the dogs will be bathed to get rid of the fleas once and for all.

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