Fleaing the Scene

In twelve years of a sandy garden, slobbery dog parks and an alternately shorn or shaggy coat, not once has our beautiful dog contracted fleas. But this year there’s apparently an epidemic and our poor old puppy is under attack from the bastards.

Villy post-bath.
Villy all fluffy after a bath.

We noticed a week or so ago that Villy was scratching and chewing himself a lot more than usual. Mum thought he was being harassed by summer blowflies and put various anti-fly treatments on him. We didn’t know exactly what was wrong until we gave him a bath and saw the tiny black fleas clinging to his underbelly. It was quite upsetting. So we hosed them off as best we could and then Mum looked up some home remedies for fleas. Apparently they can’t stand lemon, so Mum boiled lemon juice (I’m not entirely sure why it had to be boiled) and applied it to the dog. Vill wasn’t too bothered by having citrus juice rubbed through his coat. The problem was that it made him damp and sticky and he then went and lay in the sand. So we now had a mucky, sticky, lemony dog who didn’t seem any better for the treatment. Eventually we relented and took him to the vet (although not before another bath). There he was prescribed an expensive anti-flea treatment and given a shot of steroids. The dog seemed a bit better then and we hopefully applied the flea-poison.

Vigo snoozing on a doona cover. Bad cat.
Vigo snoozing on a doona cover. Bad cat.

But naturally that isn’t the whole story. The same evening we noticed that the cat was biting and chewing his bum, which was unusual. I scooped him up and examined his beautiful pelt, only to find the same tiny black bastards that had infested the dog. Dad and I asked delightedly if this would be our chance to give the cat a bath. (Vigo is an indoor cat who is usually too clean to warrant our assistance.) Sadly, Mum decided that this wasn’t necessary. Instead she would go and buy some feline anti-flea treatment in the morning. In the meantime however, we shut the cat in the bathroom and applied a coating of fresh lemon juice. This was followed by a good going-over with a lice comb from when I was in junior school. Thankfully the cat wasn’t too perturbed by the citrus and actually enjoyed the lice comb. Our lemon-scented cat toddled off to furtively clean himself.

But of course the trouble with fleas is that you don’t just have to remove them from the infested pets. You have to remove them from the animals’ bedding and the rugs indoors and the… It was clear we were going to be doing a lot more vacuuming. Not only that but it began to dawn on us that, while we don’t have (much of) a fur or pelt to worry about, humans are not immune to fleabites.

Now, my mum and I have both been suffering from what we think is chronic hives. Hives, for those who haven’t had the joy, are like a mass attack of mosquito bites, except without any mosquitos. It’s the body’s immune system throwing a wobbler and producing itchy red lumps all over (because stuff you, that’s why). Propensity to hives is genetic but they are usually triggered by an allergic reaction. So Mum and I have been theorising about slight changes in washing powder and that sort of thing. But now the latest possibility is that they’ve been provoked by fleabites. This may explain why it’s mainly my feet and ankles that are suffering.

I don’t have a particularly funny spin to put on this. It’s just damn rotten luck. But I will report on how the lemon juice is working (we’ve been advised to spray it around the house as well) and if the removal of the fleas results in the hives letting up. That’s after we vacuum the whole house once a day for a week…

But, on a completely unrelated note, it’s my birthday tomorrow! Lucky me.

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