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Fleas Vulnerable at Larval Stage

December 21, 1989|DR. GLENN ERICSON | Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is immediate past president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn

Q I have a 7-year-old mixed Persian cat and for the first time since I got her, I noticed this summer that in the droppings that she scratches off onto her blanket, there are minute worms, not more than an eighth of an inch long. I've checked her stools and there doesn't appear to be any worms there. I'm wondering if there is a stage in a flea's life when it is in the form of a worm, say between the egg and the hatched flea? Or is there some other explanation? I shake out her blanket daily, of course, and wash it every three or four days, but these worms make me nervous since it is inevitable that some of them will get into the carpet or elsewhere around the house. Please tell me what you think they are and how to get rid of them.

Dixie La Shell,


A What you have described is apparently the larval stage in the life cycle of the flea. When a flea lays her eggs, they incubate for approximately a week and then hatch into a very small white larval form, which is very active and moves about to feed. As this larva feeds, its color will change from white to a brown tint. The larvae then molt within a two- to three-week span, and then spin a cocoon, which becomes very resistant to environmental changes and insecticide products. A new flea can hatch out within a 10-day to two-week period of time, ready to feed on your pet or even you. To control this cycle, you must continue to clean the environment where your cat stays. Sprays, dips, and baths will kill the adult fleas. Premise sprays and foggers can be effective against larval stages, as is vacuuming the carpets and floors and washing the bedding. Again, the pupal stage is the most resistant form, although good aggressive cleaning of the area will help remove them.

If there is still some doubt as to the identity of these worms, take a few to your veterinarian and have them examined to make sure that they are flea larvae. Tapeworm segments and other insect larva can be confused for flea larvae, although tape segments tend to be much larger.

Q My 7-year-old cocker spaniel was born with a cataract and now has another one and can't see at all. My problem is I can't afford to have her operated on. Do any vets preform this service free or near free?

R. Knauerhaze,

Laguna Niguel

A Because cataract surgery is very delicate and requires special care, not only for the surgery but also the after-care, I am not aware of any practices that do the surgery at no charge. You should talk your situation over with your regular veterinarian or with the ophthalmologist who would be doing the surgery. Even a referral to the veterinary school at the University of California, Davis, would not guarantee surgery at no charge, but they might be able to charge part of the cost off to teaching.

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