by Dr Nicola Parry, DVM
Start From Scratch!
Fleas are no longer just a problem in the warmer months – our central heating now means that “flea season” lasts all year round. Thankfully though, you can take action and get ahead in this battle.
2 Simple Ways To Recognize That Your Dog Has Fleas:
A couple of things, however, that might alert you to a current problem:
This might sound obvious, but frequent scratching tends to indicate a flea infestation, whether or not you see fleas.
- Flea Dirt
Adult fleas may be hard to find, but you can usually find other evidence of their work! “Flea dirt” is actually the flea’s fecal material – digested blood deposited after feasting on your pet! Just brush back the hair to investigate, and look for the classic pinpoint dark specks on the skin. I always enjoy confirming my suspicions by transferring these to a white tissue, adding a drop of water and watching it turn red-brown!
Breaking The Cycle
Knowing the life cycle of the flea will help you understand how to attack the problem. Fleas love warm, moist environments, and will live on the dog and feed on its blood. The females lay eggs on the dog’s skin, and these can fall off onto the carpet, bed, your clothes, the floorboards, and anywhere else that the dog goes. Later, eggs develop through larval and pupal stages into a new generation of adult fleas.
So now you begin to see that it is not just your dog that needs to be treated, since most of the flea’s life cycle can be spent away from the dog.
Your 2-Sided Attack
Your plan of attack needs to be aimed not only at your dog, but also his environment. Here are some tips to help you prepare your battle plan:
4 Ways To Treat Your Dog
A hair cut if necessary!
- Overlong hair is a great place for fleas and their eggs to hide.
- Try Dirty and Hairy OUTDOOR shampoo and conditioner to gently cleanse and condition the coat and skin.
Flea control products
- Numerous flea control products are available over the counter or from your veterinarian. In addition, you can use Flea The Scene. This safe, 3-in-1 spray nicely complements other anti-flea products.
- This keeps the coat healthy and helps to brush away fleas and eggs.
4 Ways To Treat The Environment
- Carpets, floorboards, furniture, your bed, your dog’s bed.
Then get rid of the vacuum bag to prevent flea reemergence!
- Pet bedding
- Your bedding
- Removable furniture covers
- Clothing that your dog might sit on
- Flea control products
- Separate products are available to treat your home
- Pay particular attention to carpets, furniture and bedding.
Treat other pets
If your dog has buddies at home, make sure they too are treated. And not just dogs either – cats, rabbits, and hedgehogs for instance, can also be infested and may contribute to the cycle.
In reality, all dogs will have fleas, so it’s always wise to follow these steps regardless. Flea control should never be considered a onetime deal – it requires constant vigilance. But although we will never be flea-free, the good news is that we can definitely take steps to break this vicious cycle. These efforts will go a long way toward improving your dog’s health as well as your sanity!
Nicola Parry is a veterinarian at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is ACVP board-certified and her career has taken her along various paths, including general practice and academia. She enjoys teaching veterinary pathology, as well as writing for the veterinary, medical and scientific worlds. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her oddball cat, Tiddles