Your dog won’t stop itching, you go in for a closer look with a comb, and it’s confirmed… “My dog has fleas!” Now what do you do?
My dog has fleas! What am I supposed to do now? If this sounds familiar, you’ve had to deal with the small but annoying nuance caused by this little pest. e. The risk for fleas becomes even greater during the summer months and, if you aren’t careful, just a few fleas can lead to a full-scale infestation. We’re going to go over the basics about how to deal with a flea infestation as well as share some tips on how to prevent a recurrence.
In addition to extreme discomfort, fleas and ticks can also cause serious health problems in pets and people.
- When a flea bites your dog, it deposits a small amount of saliva in the skin. Your dog can develop Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) in reaction to this saliva, which causes severe itching. In addition to your pet scratching or biting excessively around the tail, groin or backside, scabs or bumps may also appear on your pet’s neck or back.
- Anemia may occur in pets if too many fleas suck their blood. The signs of anemia include pale gums, weakness and lethargy in your pet.
- Dogs may become infected with tapeworms by ingesting an infected flea. Pets may have intense anal itching, and tapeworm segments may be seen around the anal area or in the feces.
Treating flea infestation
There are four main ways to treat a flea infestation:
- Kill adult fleas that are already on the pet.
- Kill newly-arriving adult fleas on the pet. It may take three or four months to kill all the fleas emerging from pupae in the household environment.
- Prevent further infestation of the home by using an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) to inhibit the hatching of viable flea eggs and prevent the development of larvae into adult fleas.
- Clear the home and the environment of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae that are already there.
You can achieve the first three by treating your pet regularly with a product that contains two active ingredients such as FRONTLINE® Plus (one to kill adult fleas, the other to prevent the development of eggs and larvae.) Flea pupae are protected by their cocoons – all pupae will have to hatch out and be killed as adult fleas on the pet. It can take several weeks for all pupae to hatch from an infested environment. If undisturbed, pupae can exist for many months in the environment, which is why encouraging them to hatch (by allowing your pets to roam their usual haunts) and regular flea treatment are important in helping to rid a home of an infestation.
Be sure to treat all dogs and cats. Some dogs and cats are good at masking the signs of a flea infestation. But if one pet is infested, all pets in the household can be.
STEP 1: TREAT YOUR PET
There are several pesticides on the market that will target adult fleas as well as their larvae. Killing the larvae is essential to becoming and remaining flea-free. When choosing a pesticide, see that the active ingredients list includes a larvae-killing chemical like pyriproxyfen or methoprene.
Dogs and cats should not be bathed in the 4-5 days before or after applying a spot-on flea and tick treatment like K9 Advantix II or Advantage II for dogs. This is because most spot-on treatments migrate into the subcutaneous fat layer on your pet, making their bodies inhospitable to fleas and their eggs. If you bathe them too close to application, the natural oils that carry the medication into their subcutaneous fat will not be plentiful enough. Also, if you bathe them too soon following treatment, you may wash away the medication.
In the case of fleas, apply the medication right away. Over the counter flea killers, such as Capstar Flea Killer, will rid your dog of their infestation within 6 hours. After about a week, you can give your dog a bath with flea killing shampoo. Don’t overuse the shampoo. Flea shampoo can be drying to your dog’s already tender skin. Remember, fleas are parasites that bite and suck blood. They’re bothersome and itchy for your pet. Be gentle on their skin while you treat them.
In the interim, between applying the medication and giving the bath, you may comb your dog’s fur with a flea comb. Keep a small bowl of soapy water on hand. If you scoop up a flea or eggs, drown them in the soap water, and keep going. To save on Advantix, Advantage II for dogs, and Capstar Flea Killer head on over to PetPlus for a pet prescription plan! Members save 20% on all purchases here on PetCareRX and an average of $197 per year on flea and tick medication!
As soon as you’ve applied the spot-on treatment, you can begin treating your home.
STEP 2: TREAT YOUR HOME
First, thoroughly vacuum the entire house, including hard surfaces. When you’re done, seal your vacuum bag in plastic and throw it away. Some folks recommend putting a flea collar into the vacuum bag to kill fleas and their eggs as you suck them up. Others argue against this practice, as flea collars are heavy with chemicals. It’s a matter of personal preference.
Before you vacuum, you may wish to sprinkle an even layer of borax onto carpets you suspect might be infested. Let it sit overnight, then vacuum. Some find that the borax is an effective, non-toxic way to help suffocate the fleas, and to make them sluggish so they’re easier collect. Then, wash your pet’s bed in hot water, and if possible, dry in a hot dryer. Be careful: some synthetic beds may melt in the dryer, in which case it may be easier to replace the bed.
If you continue to find more evidence of fleas, it might be time to call an exterminator. Exterminators are better at containing and controlling the chemicals they use to rid you and your home of fleas. If an exterminator is out of the budget, you may opt for a do-it-yourself fog kit or spray. Just be sure to read the labels. Some flea killing chemicals can be hazardous to birds, fish, and of course, human children.
Tips for Prevention
As you can see, dealing with a flea infestation is no small task. Your best bet, then, is to prevent it from happening by protecting your dog from fleas. There are plenty of topical flea medications available on the market but you can just as easily find an all-natural product. In addition to treating your dog, keep your house clean by vacuuming regularly and sweeping your floors. Don’t leave anything outdoors for a long period of time that you intend to bring indoors because fleas can attach themselves to objects and hitch a ride into your home. If you follow these simple steps, you’ll never have to say: “My dog has fleas – not again!”