Dr. Luttinen’s first and urgent blog: Fleas are much more than inconvenient: they are truly harmful to your pets, your home, and family!

Has your dog or cat been struggling with fleas or itching from skin problems in the Bremerton, Silverdale, and/or Tacoma , WA areas recently?

We have been recently experiencing a large surge in flea infestations and allergy episodes in the dogs and cats we treat in our hospitals in Bremerton, WA, Wheaton Way Veterinary Hospital, and Tacoma, WA, University Place Veterinary Hospital.

As much as I would love to relax and enjoy this rare sunny October day in the Pacific Northwest, after a long week caring for dogs and cats, I can’t help but think of all the dogs, cats, and families we’ve recently seen in the Bremerton, WA area for severe skin problems.  It just occurred to me that I needed to take a moment to put together a blog conversation to help our families and pets experiencing these allergies and fleas.  I would like to provide you and your family with some useful information.

During the last three to four weeks, we have seen many dogs and cats suffering from both flea infestations and severe allergies.  One of the few locally-specific problems the pets in the pacific northwest  experience are flea infestations.  FleaFAD cats with labelss are a very small insect that bite mammals to survive by nourishment of a blood meal (the ingestion and digestion of blood).  They often use our pet dogs and cats as a resource for nutrition, shelter, and transportation.  However, they can also survive and replicate in carpet, lawns, furniture, and other areas.  Another locally-specific condition that can harm (and even kill) our dogs in the pacific northwest is Salmon poisoning disease (my next blog will be about this fall condition from dog’s eating raw salmon.  Until you read my blog on this subject, we FAD with labelshighly recommend that you NEVER give your dog raw salmon).

Flea allergy dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) from the exposure of flea saliva (from flea bites) is one of the most common conditions we see in our Bremerton, WA and Tacoma, WA practices.  Sadly, fleas and flea allergies have become a year-round problem for our clients and their pets.  It seems that we see the majority of our cases around climate transitions, such as what we’ve recently seen in Kitsap and Pierce counties recently with regard to the sudden change from sunny, hot weather to rainy, wet weather.  Many fleas and their populations tend to replicate in our homes through the host of our dogs and cats.  Their populations can exponentially grow in a short period of time.

The most valuable information I offer to our clients include the following:

1. Fleas are a very big problem for the pets and for our households.  Not only are flea infestations on our pets and in our homes inconvenient, and potentially even embarrassing, but they are very common problems.

2. Fleas can cause severe itching, skin rashes, anemia (low red blood cell counts) in small and/or young animals, and can  transmit tapeworms and blood parasites.  They can also cause severe “hot spots”, from flea allergy dermatitis, with are localized areas of skin inflammation, scabbing, infection, and ulcers.   In the case of flea allergies, these rashes and scabbing are typically seen around and under the neck and/or over the top of the hips to near the base of the tail in both dogs and cats.

3.  Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is more serious than a simple flea infestation.  These pets are actually having an allergic reaction to the flea saliva in the bloodstream from the bites of these fleas.

4. Eliminating the fleas will not resolve the rashes right away until the hypersensitivity (allergic) reaction is treated or the saliva is eliminated from the bloodstream.  Flea saliva can persist within the bloodstream of dogs and cats for at least 2-3 weeks.

5. When we see an FAD pet, we typically begin adult flea control, we recommend REVOLUTION for our cat friends and TRIFEXIS for our dog friends.  REVOLUTION is a topical liquid product that is administered on the skin to prevent fleas, heartworms, ear mites, and intestinal worms.  Whereas, TRIFEXIS is a tablet (pill) that similarly prevents fleas, heartworms, and eliminates intestinal worms.  Both of these products are available only through veterinarians as they have gone through a different series of testing as the over-the-counter (OTC) flea products and therefore require a veterinary-client-pet relationship and prescription for their use.  Both products are tested and labeled for use as monthly flea preventatives.

6. In addition to flea control treatment, we may also use steroids or antihistamines to resolve the allergic response to the flea saliva.

7. And finally, in some cases of FAD, dogs and cats can experience a secondary bacterial skin (Staph pyoderma) infection which requires antibiotics.

Regardless of the severity, if you are seeing your dog and/or cat scratching or are finding fleas on your pets and/or skin rashes, then please schedule an appointment and consult with our veterinarians right away.  We have many options to help both you and your family and pets!

Please let us know if this was helpful and/or feel free to contact our hospitals for any questions or concerns!


Dave Luttinen, DVM, DABVP (canine/feline)

Wheaton Way Veterinary Hospital, Bremerton, WA (360) 377-0078

University Place Veterinary Hospital, Tacoma, WA (253) 565-4040






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