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7 Tips to Flea Control With Dogs

by on January 22, 2014 - Leave a Comment

My dog has fleas, and I am as embarrassed as a school nurse who’s child has been sent home from school with head lice! As a former groomer, it would seem I am horribly neglectful for allowing such a thing to happen. I’m one of those diligent groomers that dispenses advice on preventing flea infestations. So how could such a thing happen to me, and what can I do about flea control with dogs?

Well, for those of you who have witnessed the agony of a dog infested with fleas knows that all a poor dog can do is Dog Scratchinglick, bite, scratch and chase his butt in circles to defend himself from these pesky creatures. I have been using a spot on topical for years. I was very proud of my flea-free record until my Schnauzer Tilde began biting herself raw in some spots. Befuddled by this sudden “condition” she developed I raced her to the vet in a panic. “Does she have any fleas?” he asked, in that calm, clinical doctor voice. “No, I checked, and haven’t seen any,” I replied, while thinking that he knows something that I haven’t a clue about. He rolled her over on her back to examine her belly, and low and behold, there was one lone flea running across her belly. That one flea was all it took to send her into an allergic response that drove her to bite herself down to the skin!

I have an awesome vet, and he gave me the lowdown on flea prevention, which I am sharing, in part, with you. I also did further investigation of the pesticides I had been using and the clinical results.* So here’s my advice to all of you wondering what to do to prevent fleas.

  • Understand that there is no such thing as prevention. I don’t know why they use the term, because in reality there is no such thing. Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and worms are all around, and a force of nature. Your dog will is going to come in contact with fleas at one point or another in its lifetime, so it’s really about how you manage them. Control is the key to living with fleas.
  • Learn about parasites. The more you know, the more equipped you are to deal with them. Just knowing when they are the most active, and the kinds of natural and man-made pesticides available to deal with them will aide you in keeping them in check.
  • Learn whether your breed of dog is susceptible to reactions from the pesticides on the market. I have seen dogs loose the hair around their neck from some flea collars, and others go into a anaphylactic shock from an allergic reaction to certain ingredients of a spot-on treatment.
  • Choose a treatment program that you will stick to. Take me for example. I really don’t like any sort of collar for the reason stated above. As a dog collar designer, I also don’t think these collars are very attractive, so I opted for the spot-ons. Yes, they are more expensive, a little messy, and must be applied with care as you are handling a pesticide chemical. But when Tilde developed her flea dermatitis, I had to move on to Comfortis, a pill application with a higher effectiveness rate (and higher price tag) than a spot-on. And you need to order ample supply so you don’t run out (as I didn’t do – lesson learned).Which leads me to the next point …
  • Have a back up plan. Sometimes the flea will prevail, and you will need immediate treatment. There are are few options, and most are 100% effective. A flea bath, for example, is one of the most effective ways to rid a dog immediately of fleas. You can get both natural and chemical versions. Capstar, and oral pill, is another option. It begins working immediately. Just remember to follow up with your control plan right away, as these methods do not prevent new fleas from appearing or larvae (eggs left behind) from hatching. If you don’t have a back up plan, that’s when things get out of control.
  • Never let your guard down. Unfortunately, that’s what I did. Whatever method of control you use, stick to the regimen. I let my dog’s monthly spot-on treatment slide about a week or two. As most topical treatments have an effectiveness rate of about 70%, once you get past the recommended 30 day treatment cycle, the effectiveness drops to as low as 20%, That’s as good as no protection at all.
  • Be mindful of the residual effects of fleas. They will bite, and your dogs will react. Even when protected they can be bitten, and they will bite and itch, particularly their rear and nose, as these are the most common points of contact. If the reaction persists, then something may not be working with your control program. Sometimes it’s just a reaction to a bite (think of your own reaction to mosquitoes or ticks), so have some skin remedies on hand to ease them of this, as flea control products do not resolve allergic responses.

Remember, it’s all about control, and taking these steps will put you in the control instead of the flea – bringing peace of mind to you, and bodily peace to your dog!

* Small Animal Dermatology, George H. Muller, Robert Warren Kirk, Danny W. Scott, Craig E. Griffin

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