“A king there was once reigning, who had a goodly flea…he loved him without feigning as his own son were he; hIs tailor then he summoned…the tailor to him goes. Now measure me the youngster for jerkin and for hose. In satin and in velvet behold this young one dressed…bedizen’d o’er with ribbons, a cross upon his breast. Prime minister they made him; he wore a star of state and all his poor relations were courtiers, rich and great. The gentlemen and ladies at court were sore distressed; the queen and all her maidens were bitten by the pest, and yet they dared not scratch them, or chase the fleas away.”
The Flea Song is part of the scene in Faust 1, first published around 1790. The song is about a king who loved a flea on which he lavished many riches. He is fitted with fine clothing and made Head of State, and his family members were awarded high positions in the government. Members of the King’s court dared not speak up and complain; instead they had to cope with the biting and itching.
We may consider the description of a King being fond of a flea quite strange, but it is important to keep in mind that in late l8th Century, society viewed parasites such as fleas, lice, ticks, and bedbugs more favorably, merely as nuisances, and this view did not really change until the mid 19th Century. In other words, a poem or song about a highly regarded flea was not as strange in 1760 as it may seem now. Around the time that Goethe wrote the Flea Song, watchmakers tried to harness fleas, with tiny gold wires, to demonstrate their skills in fine manipulation. In other parts of the world people also dressed up fleas, not acknowledging that fleas deserve destruction, not songs!
The late l8th Century was the start of the flea circus mania in Europe. Fleas would be caught and rigged up in harnesses made of thin gold wires. The fascination with these blood-suckers dwindled quickly when it was discovered that fleas vectored the bacterium that caused the plague. In the Flea Song, Goethe mentions that the people at the King’s court are getting bit and that the bites start to itch. This is a very good description. They puncture the skin, opening up blood vessels, and then suck up the blood by creating a tube with their mouth-parts. These days fleas are unpopular for good reason.
Fleas are certainly not appreciated either by today’s humans or today’s canines, and the disgusting statistic is that one female flea can lay 50 eggs a day, or a couple thousand during her lifetime, and for every single flea actually found on your dog, there are many, many more lurking on your pet, in your yard, and even in your house.
Flea bites equal misery for your dog, and they can also cause a variety of other problems, including flea allergy dermatitis, anemia in severe cases, and they can carry tapeworms. Fleas and itching go together, and if your dog is itching, you need to check immediately. One of the best tools to confirm whether or not there are fleas is a flea comb. Start at the head and move toward the tail. The most common areas where fleas are found are the neck and the rear end, so check those areas carefully. A flea comb’s main purpose is to confirm whether or not there are fleas, and if you find even one flea, it is time to talk to your vet about a preventative to make those fleas flee. Do not wait until the dog has a major flea infestation.
There are many preventative products available to combat fleas, and some of them are good, some of them are not- so- good, and some of them may be downright toxic. Please DO NOT buy over the counter products. Consult with your veterinarian who is qualified to explain your options, and work with your own dog’s health history.
Itch….itch….scratch….scratch….must be a flea……or two….or three….probably more. Those nasty critters multiply, multiply, multiply….and they latch on tight….Soon gross little bugs will run all over him….it will seem like millions, and zillions….Be prepared.