If everything has a purpose, why do fleas exist?

Here’s another column by the vet, Dr. CoolBreeze:


My inside-only pet has been scratching excessively.  How can I tell if he has fleas?
To determine if your pet has fleas, start by examining their skin and coat from head to toe, especially around the base of their tail.  You may also use a flea comb to check for fleas.  A flea comb is used to remove fleas, flea dirt, and/or small particles that may be in your pet’s coat.  When using a flea comb you should evaluate the entire coat.  You may only see flea dirt and mistakenly assume he is dirty. 

Flea dirt appears as dark, dry, debris which resembles ground coffee.  You can apply a collection of this debris onto a wet paper towel, and the moisture will turn the paper a rusty red color if the sample is flea dirt. 

Fleas are aggressive blood feeders capable of biting your pet up to 30 times in one minute, and female fleas can lay up to 50 eggs per day.  The flea’s life cycle is complex and can be completed in as little as two weeks.  These characteristics allow just a few fleas to multiply into thousands in just weeks.
If you determine your pet has fleas or you are having difficulty controlling a flea infestation, you should consult with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can provide your pet with medicated shampoos, topical insecticides, and/or oral flea medications.  You should also be advised to treat your home and yard.  This may require a visit from a professional exterminator.  To ensure that the flea life cycle is broken, have your home and yard treated periodically.  Your pet may also receive a monthly treatment to ensure that they stay free of disease spreading fleas.  Due to the fast reproduction of fleas, you should begin treatment as soon as possible.  It is best to treat all areas that your pet comes in contact with and start your pet on a safe preventative prescribed by your veterinarian. 

 Disclaimer:  This section is provided for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for regular veterinary care through a licensed veterinarian, including regular office visits.


Last week we fielded a telephone call from a woman with a sick cat.  When we pressed her for more information, she just replied that the cat was sick.  Never a good sign when an owner can’t/won’t say what could possibly be wrong – that can indicate owner ignorance or abuse.  We gave her the last time slot of the day.

She arrived carrying a box of motor oil with the lid duct-taped shut.  The box held, instead of containers of motor oil, the near-lifeless body of a young cat ridden with fleas.  She admitted that she had treated the cat with some liquid flea prevention that she got at the dollar store.  The cat had a reaction to the liquid, which is common with over-the-counter flea prevention, and seizures set in after she applied the medication THREE DAYS PRIOR.  The fleas were not slowed down at all but continued to feast on blood meals from the cat until the blood was drained out of her body.  Her gums were white.  And still the fleas hopped in search of more blood.  The home was infested with fleas before the cat arrived, and probably remains the same.

The thought that this poor cat had been unable to move from seizures and held captive by fleas for three days until almost dead made me nauseous.  The vet recommended euthanasia which brought relief none too soon to the animal. 

The animal shelter called the vet’s office a few hours later to find out if they should give the woman another cat.  Turns out the woman had recently adopted the cat from the shelter.  The woman had informed the shelter of the cat’s death, but all she told them was that the cat that she had just gotten at the shelter in the past week had died, so the shelter thought that they had adopted out a sick animal.  We adamantly refused to recommend that home as a safe haven, and requested that the animal control officer inspect the premises.

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6 Responses to “If everything has a purpose, why do fleas exist?”

  1. Simba Says:

    Fleas exist so that Dr. CoolBreeze can have a lucrative practice, and hire someone to be his assistant, thus keeping a small part of the United States economic system operating. This in turn (not intern) helps the entire world monetary system operate at a higher level than as if the lowly flea didn’t ever exist. The possibility exists that without fleas the entire world financial system might collapse, leaving all humanity jobless, homeless, and without hope. Suicide might become rampant, and wars could break out over an ever-decreasing standard of living. It seems to me the fleas are quite important.


    • ruthrawls Says:

      I like your theory, but the notion our particular practice is lucrative is not accurate. We are a small practice and not lucrative at all. Last wintertime when business was slow, I got paid, but the vet didn’t pay himself. He still owes on him educational loans. Everyone thinks that we are rolling in dough. Not true. He has to keep a large stock of pharmaceuticals, and the rules of retail apply to that just like if we were selling jellybeans. Got to sell it before you can make a profit. That’s why people buy those cheap meds at the grocery store – they can’t afford real pharmaceuticals so they buy cheap substitutes which can actually harm the animal. We live in one of the poorest counties in SC, the educational system is at the bottom of the scale, and unemployment is rampant. Dog-fighting rings are everywhere. There are gangs here so we already have the wars. Last week, one of the candidates in the last sheriff’s election was arrested by the State Law Enforcement Division after he was involved in a middle-of-the-night shootout, rumor has it over an illicit affair. Our little society here has already crumbled, and we still have fleas.


  2. kari Says:

    poor kitty cat 😦


  3. May Says:

    I, think people should be ediucated about fleas and other harmful bugs or worms, that can destroy ther loving pets . These things should be publicised, inews papers and warn the problems it can do to animals and humans. many typs of worms are contagious to humans. I feel so bad when the over the counter sells fake meds to people that think they are helping their animals its’ a shame. Thank You for your info May


  4. Skip Ratcliff Says:

    Fleas are nature’s way of “thinning the herd” and promoting survival of the fittest.


  5. Laurie Samsel Olson Says:

    Oh my. What a tragic story about the poor shelter kitty! We had terrible problems with fleas in Oregon and struggled every summer to rid our home and pets of the nasty pests. But there are no fleas in Nevada where we’ve lived for the past 17 years. Thank goodness.

    Liked by 1 person

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