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How to Keep Your Dog Healthy and Flea Free
Fleas are probably one of the worst side effects of owning a dog. The dog should always go outside, for nothing more than to get some exercise by relieving himself. In the grass, sand, weeds, and in fact almost any outdoor surface, lies a small vampire waiting for its next victim. They don’t care what it is that passes them by, as long as it’s alive and has blood pumping. This is a definite problem when trying to keep your dog healthy.
With amazing agility and strength, a flea can jump anywhere within a 6-foot radius, and possibly as high from a standing position on the ground. Their legs can propel their bodies amazing distances when comparing body size to measurable distance. And if they catch a whiff of you, they can hunt you down quickly. All they need is a warm body and blood that can be brought to the surface.
But more often than not, the dog is the most likely victim. They are closer to the ground. They walk the field more often. And what flea in their right mind could resist all that warm protective fur that acts as a nice protective tent over the flea while drinking fresh blood like a barely noticeable daisy on the beach.
The best way to see a flea is in a book. At least, that’s my preferred way. To see a live usually causes panic in dog owners. This is because these really small creatures are rarely seen unless you specifically look for them. They are about the size of the diameter of a pin (the sewing pins you use to hold the material until you sew it). They have different colors from light brown to brown. And you can squeeze one with all the force you have between your thumb and forefinger and not damage the flea at all.
Fleas are absolutely the number one infestation your dog is likely to come into contact with of all possible external parasites. They live by drinking blood. They can attach to the skin and hair follicles easily with their spiny legs. Their legs are probably the strongest in the entire animal kingdom (including man), especially when considering size vs. ability.
Fleas start as eggs, hatch and go through their life stages quickly, within days. Fleas can lay literally hundreds of eggs every day. Within a few days, these eggs hatch, within a few days they turn into adults, and then they themselves lay hundreds of eggs a day. Like a pyramid scheme in overdrive, you can see how hundreds producing hundreds producing hundreds of fleas in a short amount of time can become troublesome in a very short time.
SIGNS THAT YOUR DOG HAS FLEAS
If you have a dog with fleas, you will start to notice these things almost immediately.
Scratching – Your dog will be sitting or lying down somewhere, and what seems like a strange, beat the head in an area at the base of the tail and start sucking with teeth. It may also start sucking in the stomach, or near the crotch area and the area of the base of the legs.
Scratching can be constant itching from the back leg to behind the ear. Your dog may even roll onto his back and writhe all over your carpet, even whining in the process.
Skin irritation – Fleas, like mosquitoes, have saliva that the skin does not tolerate well. It is the saliva that inflames human skin from mosquito bites, not the bite itself. The flea does the same to your dog.
If fleas are concentrated in one area, or even worse, your dog is allergic to flea saliva, the area will lose hair and become minimally inflamed. This area can shed all the hair, exposing a bald spot. The skin in the area can look really dry like a sunburn, coming off your dog. It can even become infected and/or bleed from a combination of the attacks, your dog’s skin reaction, and your dog’s physical reaction to the fleas (biting, sucking, and scratching).
Holy shit Batman! – No, but seriously flea droppings are always an indicator of infestation. The way to find out is to inspect the dog’s skin on the surface. Move the hair around in the areas he seems to be itching. If you are seeing small black specks on your skin, you are most likely seeing flea droppings. You may even see a flea yourself, but don’t assume your dog is clean if you don’t see it. Fleas are difficult to detect.
Another way is to try using a fine comb near the base of the hair. After combing the area, try wiping the comb on a tissue, Kleenex, paper towel or even toilet paper. As long as it’s white. Because if flea droppings are present, they will show up on whatever you’re brushing with. If it is white, you see spots on it, reddish (like dried blood). The main source of food is blood, makes sense, right?
PLEASE RELEASE THESE FLEAS!
Treating the dog is the first priority. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Once a flea gets your dog into the house, they tend to lay eggs wherever they go. They will lay eggs on carpet, bedding, furniture, almost any surface. And it’s very likely that it’s been a few days and you have several generations, or minimal instars, of fleas all over your house.
You’ll need to get something for the dog that kills everything from eggs to adults. Then you’ll probably need to buy a separate attack for the house. There are mists, powders, and other types that you can use. Again, the important thing is that it kills all stages from eggs to adults.
It usually goes something like this: 1) treat the dog (shower using flea shampoo, comb and then treat) 2) home attack. 3) wash all bedding, clothing, curtains, towels, etc. 4) Vacuum the floor to absorb the dead and eggs. 5) treat the carpet again in the morning 6) vacuum at night. 7) Repeat 5 and 6 until you are sure that the new eggs, hatchlings, hatchlings and soon-to-be adults will survive.
This covers the family inside. Now you have to complete the tasks by spraying or misting your yard. I bet you forgot about the yard. This is where the dog caught the fleas more than likely. If you don’t want to keep going through the above steps in your home from spring to late fall, you definitely want to hit your yard as well.
Hopefully, the dual attack on the interior and exterior of your home will eliminate the flea issue.
DOES IT GET ANY EASIER THAN THIS?
Well, there is actually a much easier route to take than the one described above. The name of the path is called “prevention”. Remember the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? This also applies to fleas.
The best thing to do is to contact your vet, or perhaps use 800 Pet Medicines or a website to purchase a topical flea solution. The most popular and most used are Advantage and Revolution. I’m not sure which one it is, but one of them has the commercial with the cute little puppy going to summer camp singing, “No fleas on me…”
Some vets, especially in the south, where sandy areas produce a greater amount of fleas and ticks, offer flea baths. Here you can take your dog to the vet to “dip” your dog in a bath of water and a pesticide that kills fleas, ticks and other pests. You may even be able to purchase some of these to make your own soaking tub at home.
When I lived in Oklahoma one summer, many farms had a large horse watering trough with a wooden cover. Farmers would bring the dip home around February and take a bath in the trough, immersing all their animals to protect them. Dogs, cats, rabbits, even goats!
This brings up a pretty good point to mention, if you have other animals in your home besides dogs, like cats, ferrets, whatever, you’ll need to use prevention or cure each of them. If you don’t take care of them all at once, fleas will simply “transfer” back and forth from one pet to another. You will never escape them then.
I’M DOING FLEA CONTROL AGAINST
Honestly, while I wish there was no ill will towards the manufacturers of such products, you really should use the actual ones. It works best, and no other company can really challenge it. Maybe use an over-the-counter flea shampoo, but the rest of the stuff doesn’t seem to be effective.
Sorry, it is what it is. Nothing is worse than trying to fight a flea infestation using all these over the counter products and having them only work temporarily. They can kill adult fleas and soon-to-be-grown fleas. But once the eggs hatch a new set of fleas, the battle begins again.
Definitely don’t use over the counter flea collars or any for that matter. The only good use of a hopper collar is in the collection system of your vacuum as a secondary support when cleaning the floor. Collars work, usually only around the area where the collar comes into contact with the dog’s skin.
Moreover, it is now believed that collars can cause more harm than good. Strong pesticides and other toxins used in collars stay in contact with the dog’s skin. That can’t be good if you think about it. I am almost positive if a man were to wear one of these collars that he would develop some type of skin cancer in the future (NOTE: this is just my opinion and is speculative, there is no scientific evidence to support my opinion).
One last point about over-the-counter products, and vet products as well. If you keep using different dog products because the last one didn’t work, you will eventually “poison” your dog. Not on purpose, of course. But injecting chemical after chemical into your dog obviously cannot have a positive effect.
Fleas cause pain and suffering to your dog. This comes in the form of itchy and inflamed skin, a dull coat and bald spots. In some rare cases, the flea infestation can be so severe that they literally drain your dog of a lot of blood, causing many health problems. You may see other effects like lethargy, sick fever and even forms of paralysis in some extreme cases.
Signs of fleas are your dog scratching, biting and/or picking at certain areas on their body, especially around the base of their tail, belly, crotch area and around their ears. Close inspection of the pet’s skin can reveal the small black specks that indicate flea droppings. A fine comb and white paper product can be used to find evidence of fleas by combing the suspected area and wiping the comb with the paper product. If red features or spots form on the paper, this is evidence of flea droppings.
Prevention is the best approach to stop a flea infestation in the first place. Use vet-recommended topical solutions that kill all stages of fleas, from eggs to adults. Over-the-counter products (except maybe a shampoo) are not recommended for use on your dog. If any other animals are part of the family, they also need treatment and/or preventive measures. Remember to frequent the yard and other areas outside of your pets.
Once you’re in the middle of an infestation, you need to attack both inside and outside your home to be effective. Be sure to clean all possible materials that may harbor fleas and eggs. This includes bedding (both human and pet), carpets, furniture and other surfaces throughout the home. A few lunges and vacuum sessions on the mat are especially recommended.
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