Fleas and your dog

Malamute pup
Malamute pup

The tiny flea is by far the most common pest that annoys dogs by making them feel itchy, creating possible allergies and even tapeworm. Not only do fleas annoy your beloved pets but they also bite people and may create temporary homes in your linen and household furniture.

 

By the time late Spring arrives, fleas come out of their cocoons (or pupae) as full adults and begin to look for the closest dog so they can get plenty of nutritious blood. The scary fact is that one female flea can lay over 2000 eggs during her short 50 day life cycle.

 

Your treasured dog will never be able to escape the ongoing threat that fleas create, particularly from the female of the species, because fleas must have blood so they can grow  and thrive. They do prefer dog or cat blood but will go for human blood if desperate or if it’s easy to get.

 

In the same way as cockroaches, fleas are tough and are designed for survival. When the female flea lays her batch of eggs on your pet’s body, they don’t all stay there. The eggs will fall wherever they can, whether it’s on the floor, on your furniture, on you, your bed, your pet’s bed or wherever your pet goes. Then the larvae hatch between 2-5 days up to a week or two, depending on the humidity and temperature. The larvae will make a cocoon to protect itself while it grows into adulthood. Whilst in that cocoon, the larvae turn into an adult with the uncanny ability to jump up to 100 times its own height. This makes the possibility of moving from place to place for egg laying and blood meals very easy indeed.

 

Fleas are more of a problem if you live in a humid climate because they need that humidity to survive and thrive. Flea eggs must have 70-75% humidity to hatch and then the larvae need a minimum of 50% humidity to survive. In the more humid places, approx 20% of flea eggs will survive as compared to only 5% in places that are more arid.

 

Keep Your Eyes Open For These Clues:

 

  • Flea “dirt” which looks like pepper after you have used a shaker.
  • Tapeworm.
  • Your dog scratching a lot, particularly around the thighs or tail.
  • Mild or severe skin reactions if  your pet has flea allergies.

 

Indicators of a flea allergy include: thick skin at the tail’s base and small raised red bumps. Your vet can easily test your dog’s skin for allergies.

 

Symptoms of Infestation

 

Fleas move extremely fast and can hide in the coat of your dog, particularly if it’s a double or long coat. You have to keep an eye out for other signs that your dog has fleas because they’re so hard to see.

 

Natural Treatments

 

The effectiveness of some natural remedies are often discussed at length. If you prefer to use natural remedies instead of the chemical alternatives, here are some tips that may help.

 

  • Rub a little citronella, tea tree  or eucalyptus oil into your dog’s collar.
  • Rub essential oils that are a  blend of almond carrier oil, cedarwood and lavender into the dog’s skin to      help keep fleas from jumping onto his skin.
  • Add yeast and garlic tablets to  your dog’s diet. The odour comes out through the skin and makes it unappealing      for fleas.

 

Treatment

 

There are lots of chemical and natural remedies you can purchase. Some kill the adult fleas, others repel fleas, some kill larvae and eggs or stop them growing, and there are others that will prevent fleas from growing and then reproducing.

 

How you choose to treat your flea problem depends on how bad the problem is and how you care for your dog normally. Some prefer chemicals and others always choose natural options. If you use tablets or a topical application, it may take more time to be effective and you may have to also treat the area your dog lives in.

 

People used to use toxic pesticides but they’re less popular today as products now have natural or genetically modified ingredients and surface remedies to protect your home too. Some products are toxic to fleas but not to humans or pets.

 

If your pet has a mild problem, you can occasionally wash him with a genetically altered shampoo and also use a flea growth inhibitor spray to help manage the problem. Treating the pet’s collar can help in many cases, depending on the size of the collar, what you put on it and how dense his coat is. You must add deterrents to your dog’s collar BEFORE fleas are apparent because after they have been found on your pet, it’s too late for this treatment. If his problem is severe, a vet visit is usually the quickest way to get rid of the problem, particularly if it’s summer as the heat makes the problem worse.

 

Grooming Your Pet

 

Spring is a very common time for flea problems so it’s even more essential to use flea deterrents. It’s also the best time for a good clean of your pet. There are over 2400 different species of fleas which is one reason why you must not only treat your dog, but also his bed, his surrounds and your whole home (the areas he can get to at least.)

 

Dogs moult between seasons so it’s vital that you give his coat a good clean so it can be revitalised and brought back to the best possible condition. You can use a hydrobath, grooming techniques and gentle cleaning methods to ensure your pet has the right amount of care. This will stop the hair from shedding and eliminate any grit or dirt in the coat. It also stimulates natural oils designed to make the coat nice and shiny.

 

You can treat your dog as a human and give him an aromatherapy indulgence session. Lavender is antibacterial, promotes skin health, eases itchiness, prevents anxiety, puts your dog in a good mood, relaxes him and has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and insecticidal agents.

 

You can use Rosemary for relaxation, to relieve sore muscles, stimulates circulation and hair growth and puts your dog in a good mood. Of course, there are lots of other scents that can be used as well.

 

Tips 

 

Fleas love to spend most of the time on your dog’s toys and bed, your bed, your furniture and in your carpet and will usually only move to find more blood to eat. Wash your dog’s bedding and toys regularly. Wash any of your own materials and coverings as often as you can, all in hot water to kill off fleas. You can spray outdoors areas where your dog may play or spend time. Vacuum regularly and add a flea powder for extra protection.

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