What should I do to kill the fleas on my dog?
This is a simple question with a rather complex answer.
Successful flea control has two aspects. Fleas must be
controlled on your dog, and fleas must be controlled in
your dog’s environment
Many dog owners think that simply bathing their dog will solve the problem, but this is
not true. To understand how to truly keep on top of fleas, you first need to understand
how their lifecycle works. Fleas are a little bit like a mosquito, they feed on blood.
Without a meal of blood, they are unable to mature and lay their eggs. So to the flea,
your dog is simply a moving restaurant – they jump on, have a feed, and then lay their
eggs and die.
The majority of the flea lifecycle takes place away from the dog – in the bedding,
kennels, or even in the carpet of your home.
Life Cycle
Depending on which species, a flea can live from a few months to a couple of years.
It starts out as an egg laid by a female. Females can start laying eggs about two days
after mating. She lays from 3 - 15 eggs at a time and can produce 30 - 50 in one day.
After two days or so the egg hatches and our flea moves to the next stage of its
development - the larva. The larva feeds on feces or "flea dirt" left by its mother and
begins to spin a cocoon.
In the cocoon it is at the pupa stage of development. Here it changes into its final form
and emerges as an adult in about a week.
Fleas live on blood they suck from thier hosts.. They are about 1.5 to 3 mm in size and
have hard bodies that are resistant to being crushed (by scratching) as well as narrow
bodies to make movement through hair, fur or feathers easier.
Their long hind legs give them remarkable jumping abilities. They can jump 200 times
their body length, about 30 cm. So they can easily hop from the carpet to your dog and
from your dog to you.
Symptoms of an Infestation
Depending on the number of fleas, the age of your dog or puppy and its sensitivity
symptoms can vary.
Bites can be irritating and will result in your dog scratching at the bitten area. This can
escalate to severe itching with swelling and red lesions. Left unchecked this can result in
ulceration and eventual hairloss.
In puppies, older dogs or sick dogs experiencing a severe infestation anemia is a
possibility.
You can tell if your dog has fleas because, well they will be scratching like crazy, and you
will see the little critters in their fur often around the hindquarters or head. You might
also detect "flea dirt", the excrement left by fleas. If moistened this will be a reddish
brown color as it is made up of digested blood.
Flea Allergy Dematitis
Another serious reaction is flea allergy dematitis. This is an allergic reaction caused
by your dog being allergic to the saliva of the flea. Dogs that are allergic to the saliva
will suffer intense itching and they will scratch incessantly. This can lead to hair loss,
especially in the hindquarters. If the dog is in pain or major hairloss is seen a visit to the
vet may be required.
If your dog shows signs of flea allergy dermatitis and they are hypersensitive to the
saliva it is vital that you get the infestation under control. One single flea can bite your
dog hundreds of times a day! Treat your environment and your dog immediately.
Infestation Control and Elimination
Prevention of an infestation is always preferred, of course, but what if it's too late
and fleas have already made your dog into their new home?
When dealing with an infestation you can't just treat your dog. For every one you find on
your dog there could be dozens, hundreds even, lurking in the carpets, on your furniture
and in your yard.
The entire area will have to be cleaned. Anywhere your dog goes should be cleaned. The
most important method to rid your house of fleas is to vacuum your house regularly.
This includes all the carpets, upholstered furniture, long curtains and floors.
Vacuum, Vacuum, Vcuum especially in areas where your dog may brush up against.
The dog bed should be cleaned and washed in hot water and treated with an adult flea
control product.
You can give your dog a flea bath with commercially available products designed for the
purpose such as a special shampoo. These are available from your local pet shop or vet
clinic. Please make sure you read the instructions carefully as some flea shampoos and
products can not be used on some dogs…ie: pregnant bitches or puppies.
Enviornmental products include flea bombs or foggers. They send a fog of insecticide
through your house and kill adults, eggs and larvae everywhere in carpets, drapes and
furniture. The most important method to rid your house of fleas is to vacuum your house
regularly. You and your pets have to be out of the house while it is going off, so be sure
to have somewhere you can go for about 8 hours. Read the instructions carefully and
follow them to the letter. Be careful about leaving things like food out as it can be
contaminated by the chemicals. This includes your dog's food and water bowls.
In severve cases give your local pest control company a call. They can arrange a
treatment plan for your home and environment.
Flea Control Medications
There are many choices when it comes to flea control medications like sprays and
drops as well as in a tablets and Chews. Most sprays and drops are effective against
adults, eggs and larvae as they contain both an insecticide and a insect growth regulator
(IGR). Some will also help control ticks, mosquitoes and other parasites like heartworms.
The sprays and drops are fairly waterproof but will generally need to be reapplied about
once a month. Always follow the advice of your vet and the manufacturer's instructions
though.
Another option is to use medications that are given in pill form or as injections. Pills are
taken once a month and shots are given twice a year. Once again call your vet, ask your
groomer or pop into your local Pet supplies shop and have a chat with them.
These products have specific restrictions on the age of dogs before you can apply them.
Young puppies, pregnant bitches, older dogs or sick dogs can be at risk from exposure to
these chemicals. Be sure to read the usage instructions carefully.
When giving these medications always keep an eye on your dog to make sure they are
not having an adverse reaction. This is rare but it can happen.
NATURAL FLEA CONTROL
Various natural and organic flea control products are also available, using pyrethrin,
lemon, eucalyptus leaves, tea tree oil, lavender oil or other plant based
ingredients. care must be taken when using these ingredients, making sure that a safe
dilution is used, not full strength applied to the animal. Visit your local Healthfood
store/Pet supplies store for a range of Natural Flea treatments.
The best flea control is always flea prevention. You and your pet will be happier
if you are consistent with your flea control: every month year-round.
Finally, If you have any questions or concerns in regards to your dogs health
and wellbeing you should always consult a vet.
Ash Lindblad
Ash’s Dog Wash
Mobile dog grooming
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