Marley has been sporting red scratches around his neck and chin for a while now. We assumed they were from a fight with a neighboring Alpha, but as the days pass fight-free and the scratches remain, we have lost confidence in our diagnosis. We turned to “trusty” Google, trying to locate descriptions that reminded us of his affliction, but were unsuccessful and grew weary of the gruesome images one finds with the search “dog-skin-lesions”. Luckily, Jon struck up a conversation with a random neighbor who was willing to pull back Marley’s fur and take a look. She wasn’t a vet, but she had some canine-friendly antibiotic cream we could use, and in her unprofessional opinion, it looked like Marley had fleas.
Fleas. We hadn’t even thought of that. All of our animals are on preventative flea/tick medication; they have been for years. We assumed they were immune, but now that we looked closer, the scratches lining Marley’s neck did appear self-induced. We put the antibiotic cream on the worst of the scrapes and called the vet to make an appointment. Grabbing a flashlight, we rolled Marley on to his back and looked at his belly: the raw red lines were surrounded by irritated skin as well as peppery flakes that we now recognized as flea dirt. As we studied the patches, one tiny vampire crawled into our line of vision and I grabbed it between my fingernails. It jumped from my grasp immediately, and we looked at each other with pursed lips. Marley definitely had fleas.
The vet never returned our call, so we called another one (the only other option in the phonebook), and crossed our fingers. We looked at each other and reassessed the situation: if Marley had fleas, Luna definitely had fleas; Barro probably had fleas, and what about the cats? Luna’s diagnosis was easiest, simply pulling back the fur at her tail revealed a flurry of activity, fleas crawling over one other in every direction, finally explaining her strange habit of suddenly jumping 360 degrees and biting at the air as if she were trying to catch a bug that had just leapt on to her tail. We groaned and each grabbed a cat. We found one lone flea on Dylan’s belly, and convinced ourselves it had jumped from Luna on to us, and from us on to him. Clover, of course, was pristine.
The second vet called us back, giving us a free phone consultation. He told us where to buy flea powder and how to sterilize the house with it, and how we should not use it on the cats. He gave us a natural remedy as well: a locally grown tree, Madera Negro, has leaves that can be made into a flea-repulsing, skin-soothing tea used to bathe the dogs. Even rubbing their fur with the leaves should help, and it was safe to use on the cats. He wanted us to keep using the antibiotic cream and explained that if the situation got any worse, he would come and pay us a house visit. We were glad to have a plan of action, but flea powder would require a trip to Cobano, and there was no way that was happening until tomorrow.
We took to the sand for a twilight stroll, hoping to distract the pups from their itching fest. The low tide had left tiny pools between the jagged rocks, some surrounded by Tico’s, shadowed in the dying light, plucking tasty marine life from the crevices. The serene setting simply wasn’t enough to squelch our anxious moods and our conversation kept returning to our poor, itchy animals.
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