Tag Archives: fleas

And Now…Let Us Consider Fleas

In the previous post about mosquitos, I noted that a friend said they are good for something, in that fish eat the larvae.  And I said the fish would have to learn to eat something else, since my plans include the extinction of mosquitos.

Make that double for fleas.  Fleas don’t even have the redeeming quality of serving as food for anything, although ants, spiders, and some beetles may eat them occasionally.  But an ant would eat a rock if it was small enough.  I can’t really say that fleas are a major source of food.  If there is any worth to fleas, it may be in flea circuses…if they actually exist, which is in grave doubt.

There is a theme here.  Basically I hate anything that eats blood for a living, although I do (reluctantly) make an exception for leeches.  Widely used during the Middle Ages for medical treatment of all sorts (usually worthlessly), modern medicine has found a use for them in certain instances, one of which is for the treatment of the genetic disease hemochromatosis.  I read a great book called Survival of the Sickest, in which the author says his father regularly gave blood and always felt much better afterwards.  Eventually he found out why.

But back to fleas.  There are over 2,000 species of fleas worldwide, but some of the more common ones are dog, cat, chicken, rabbit, squirrel, rat, ferret, and mouse fleas.  Oh, and human fleas.

In my experience, fleas aren’t that particular., although they do seem to have favorites.  A dog flea will be more than happy to jump on a cat, or vice versa.  Or on you for that matter, but after one bite they go “Gag!  This blood is awful!” and go back to the preferred host.

I used to have several dogs and two cats, and at that time, I learned that I could control the problem by treating only one of the dogs and one of the cats.  Sooner or later, a flea was bound to hop on the treated dog or cat and die.  These days I couldn’t get by with that, because heartworm and flea medication are combined, so everybody has to get it.

I go to this veterinary clinic where every vet, except maybe one, went to vet school at Auburn U. in Alabama.  One of them told me once that he learned in school that in order to kill fleas, the ground has to freeze to a depth of two feet. That’s not happening here (or in Alabama either) so we’re stuck with flea treatment year-round.

I can still hope that some horrible disease begins to afflict fleas.  I’ll call it Flea Plague.

Why Are There Mosquitos?

I don’t usually argue for extinction, but I make an exception in this case.  I can’t see any useful function mosquitos perform.  Although a friend once told me fish eat the larvae.  True, but fish eat a lot of things, and I think they would be okay without mosquito larvae.  Maybe to fish, mosquito larvae are like caviar.  But you can live without caviar.  I don’t want to kill fish.  I just want to kill mosquitos.

The occasion is, it’s Spring, and the mosquitos are waking up.  The occasion is also that I just saw an ad on TV for a relatively new product made by “Off!”  It’s a clip-on mosquito repellent, which you can either clip onto your waist or just sit beside you.  It looks sort of like those air freshener disks you can buy. It creates an invisible force field around your entire body which repels mosquitos.   Ask me if I believe this would work.

Also ask me if I believe it’s good marketing–it is, for about five minutes.

Since I live in Florida, I am in the heart of mosquito land.  I’ve tried every repellent known to man so far, except for these new disk thingies.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. DEET is disgusting stuff.  The smell will gag you, it feels oily on your skin, and frankly, it’s poison.

2.  Repellents using Picaridin are better.  Nobody has yet told me it’s poison too, but if it is, at least it isn’t oily, and it doesn’t make you smell like a corpse.

3.  Citronella candles don’t work either.

4.  Whatever repellent you use, you will spray it on, but you will miss a spot and get nailed.

For a while, there was a big scare about West Nile Fever, which unlike malaria, is not as apt to kill you. And all it takes is one bite.  You could dress up in mosquito netting and load up with DEET, and then, see Point #4.  So, you just act as prudently as you can, without turning into Howard Hughes.

As my friends and regular readers know, I spend as much of my leisure time as possible in my back yard at my picnic table, reading.  I love reading, but I want to be outside too.  This means that me and the mosquitos are at constant war.  I use Cutter Ultralight (Picaridin, not DEET) ,but see Point #4.  You will always miss a spot.  Mosquitos are quite clever.  They are able to ignore the sprayed parts and zoom in on the un-sprayed parts.  How can they do that?  No wonder they have survived for a gajillion years.

In my city, we have mosquito trucks.  They come through at dusk or a little later and spray pesticides which they say are safe.  I love it when I see the mosquito trucks, and I love it when I see bats, because they eat mosquitos.  But there is some controversy about it.  I’m okay with the nuclear option when it comes to mosquitos.  They aren’t just annoying–they’re deadly.

I’m also not okay with fleas.



Critter Update

The Doberman is apparently feeling quite sprightly, which is a good thing, since he is just about 2 1/2 months away from turning 13.  Thereby having already outlived the average Doberman lifespan of 10-12 years.

The thing is, he looks absolutely terrible.  He has a condition called…wait for it…dry eye.  This causes him to produce copious amounts of mucus in his right eye, so that it looks infected, but the vet says it isn’t.  It’s just irritated.  The eye drops they gave me (the doggie form of Restasis for humans) don’t work.  Take a moment here to imagine how much fun it is to put eye drops in the eye of a Doberman.

So lately I have taken to removing the gunk from his eye with a Q-tip.  This is very scary.  Because if he makes a sudden move, I could poke a hole in his eye.  That would not be good.  But he’s a very good and trusting boy, so he mostly stays still…for a short time.  I have a small window of opportunity there.  But I feel compelled to do it, because when I say copious, I do mean that.  It practically coats his eye, which has to be uncomfortable and verging on blinding.  Sometimes he will rub the right side of his face on the couch to try to dislodge it, but that doesn’t work.  It does tell me that he’s uncomfortable.  So I will keep doing it.

Nevertheless, it apparently doesn’t bother him that much.  He’s developed a relatively new short, sharp bark.  He uses this to warn the Basenji mix (aka Pippin the Beast) that he plans to drink from the community water bowl.  As far as Pippin is concerned, the water bowl is far too close to his food bowl.  For it to be far enough away, it would have to be across the street.

It would help if Pippin hadn’t developed the new habit of leaving a few morsels of food in his bowl.  I assume that gives him a reason to be protective at all times.  That must be more fun.

So, what to do?  Well, here’s my strategy.  I stay out of it.  I think that in spite of my alleged status in our tiny pack,  and in fact because of it, I can’t be in charge of everything.  You guys are dogs.  Work it out.  What I would like to do, most of the time, is kill Pippin.  Except of course, I could never do that.  When it’s just him and me, he is the most incredibly loyal and affectionate being who ever existed.  So I inadvertently have learned how to do what the experts say:  Always support the alpha, no matter what.  It may seem counterintuitive (because you’d like to kill them), but if you don’t kill them, supporting them and giving them confidence makes it safer for the other dog(s).

Meanwhile, I have a cat, Stormy, who is solid white and fat as a pig.  If it’s possible, she is even more affectionate than either of the two dogs.  As demonstrated by the fact that at night, she likes to sleep on my knee.  The one I recently sprained.  Which still hurts.  A whole world awaits her out there when it comes to places to sleep.  But, no.  Perhaps she has delusions of having healing powers.  I joke, but it’s gotten somewhat ridiculous.  And I cannot completely dismiss the idea.

But she looks terrible too.  There is a particular place on the back of her neck that she scratches when she has a flea or fleas.  Living here in the near-tropics, fleas and mosquitos are a way of life.  But three days ago I treated her for fleas and all the other evil beasties, and this morning, the place on her neck is worse.  I think she’s become immune to this medication, which happens.

And plus, I have my own health to think of.  Fleas don’t bother me, but mosquitos are an entirely different matter.  It probably doesn’t help that I just finished a book about malaria–even though there is no malaria in the U.S.  But there is West Nile Virus.  Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

If  someone could figure out how to make mosquitos extinct…sign me up.

Meanwhile, I am helping to pay the rent for Cutter, maker of what I would call personal insecticides.  I use one without DEET.  I hate DEET.

I can’t stand not going outside, but I’m well aware that it’s a crapshoot.  That one tiny place on your…elbow, ear, neck…where your insecticide didn’t reach…is the very place you could be bitten by an infected mosquito.  It only takes one.  But I can’t live like that.

So me and the two dogs and the cat are toughing it out.