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Fleeting Fleas

This is one of my least favorite subjects, but I am compelled to share my thought and knowledge on this.  Fleas,ticks and mosquitoes are a way of life in the insect world.  Although the many animals including ourselves may not appreciate their existence.  They are here for a reason!  Protecting ourselves and our pets from them is something that we really have to face whether we want to or not. 

Protecting your pets and your home from fleas can be an take only a few minutes.  In your yard you can either use a ground insect killer that is usually spread in the grass.  Depending on your preference it comes in a hose-end spray or granules that can be used in a spreader.  The cost is typically less than $10.00 and it can last up to four weeks.  If you have a landscaper or lawn care service you can talk to them about using an insect killer to protect your pet.  If you or your pet have sensitivity issues to certain chemicals organic preventatives are also available.  One is planting lavender, lemon balm and spearmint in your yard and around your home.  Using a mixture of tea tree oil, lavender and water in a spray bottle, and applying liberally to you and your pet before going outdoors can be effective as well.   The most popular treatment is a topical.  It is applied down the back from the shoulders(withers) to the rump.  But all topical treatments are not the same.  While many pets have little to no reaction to a topical treatment, others have a variety of reactions from redness, irritation to seizures and even death.  It is best to consult with your vet which is the best treatment for your pet.  

Since I entered the animal care field, I have encountered different experiences with pet owners and fleas.   Let me share what I have learned both thru training and dealing with pet parents that are overwhelmed with these creatures.

Flea Collars:    Some people believe in them.  They are inexpensive and for the most part ineffective!  The collar will only kill the fleas that it comes in contact with around the neck and just to the shoulders.  It was not uncommon to see a pet come into the shop with a flea collar on the front end and a colony for them living and building condos on the back end of the pet!  Fleas are not stupid!  They will move away from areas that are tainted with pesticides. That includes your home!  Typically the collar will last about thirty days according to the package.  What I have found that most fleas will build a resistance to the collar after the second cycle hatches(about two weeks).

Flea Dips:  I am not a particular fan of this treatment.  In most cases the treatment is very hard on the pet's skin.  The user has to wear heavy rubber gloves to protect their body from the chemical.  It made me wonder what it was doing to the organs of the the poor dog that had to be the recipient of the treatment.  It typically lasts 15 days, however , it does not kill the fleas in the home and/or sleeping area.

Topical Treatment:  This is a touchy one, because all topical treatments are NOT created equally!  The old adage"you get what you pay for" it very true.  Cheaper treatments can be water based with very little power to them.  They will kill the adult fleas but have little or no affect on the eggs and larvae.  There are quite a few topical treatments on the market, however, I have found that K-9 Advantix works the best and last longer than the other ones.  It is also the treatment that we use in our Flea Fighter Spa Package with Clean Paws Mobile Grooming.  I must warn you to be careful purchasing discount flea treatments online.  I have personally had the experience of getting a bad or out of the country batch of flea treatment that made my dog very ill.  When I took the package to the vet, he had pointed out to me that the batch I had received was not made in the United States. To the untrained eye the packaging looks exactly the same, but the formula is different.  So please be careful.  I am hearing more and more stories of pet parents who have lost or almost lost their pets like this.   This treatment usually last 30-45 days.  It kills the adults, eggs and larvae.

Flea Shampoo:  A flea shampoo will kill the adult fleas, however, if you are bathing the dog/cat at home the problem is three fold.  First the ENTIRE house and the pet's bedding must be treated. You can not spot treat.  Fleas NEVER read their lines!  They go everywhere!  You can carry them on your clothing through out your house with out even knowing it.  By the time you feel them biting you, you have a REAL problem!  10 adult female fleas can lay up to 90,000 eggs in a 30 period.  Unfortunately fleas are a friendly community bunch, and they don't like to travel by themselves.  So imagine if you found 40 dead fleas(that is a VERY LOW number) on your dog after you administered a flea bath.  Let's say that 20 of them are females.  You have been noticing your dog scratching like crazy for the last couple of months. You have well over a millions fleas bouncing through your house without even realizing it has happened.   Second, sorry to say most pet parents bathing their dogs at home are not able to address the problem properly.  In a lot of cases the the majority of pet owners don't realize that fleas will run in ANY opening to survive.  So when the bath is over they just come back out to a clean house and start the party all over again!   Third, if you have not rinsed the pet properly, the pet can suffer from hot spots from either product being left on the skin or an allergic reaction to the flea bites or both.   Some people get carried away and will bathe the dog too often.  Flea shampoos can have a drying affect on the skin which can only make your pet's skin problems worst.

Flea Powder:  Powders do work, however, they can be messy and some cases if inhaled by the pet can cause damage to their lungs.  Depending on your pet's skin it can dry it out as well.  Most powders have to be re-applied every couple of weeks to remain effective.

Flea Sprays:  Sprays do work, however, you have to re-apply them every week for them to be effective, and when you start to add it up it can cost more than a good topical application.

Organic Flea Treatment:  I love organics!  That are so much healthier for both you and your pet.  In most cases you can and your pet can share treatments!  Lavender, tea tree and or lemongrass oil can be combined with water (8 drops of each oil and 8 ounces of water).  Apply liberally!  The drawback with this method is that it has to be repeated several times a day(depending on the body chemistry and activity level).  Planting citrus scented herbs and flowers in and around your home helps.  Diatomaceous Earth(food grade) is a great product.  It is non-toxic.  It can be applied to your pet's food as well as to their body.  You can sprinkle it in and around your home and on your plants too!  Because it is ground fossil you have to be careful that the dust is not inhaled by your pet, or it could cause some damage.  Organic products in most cases do not have a residual effect so they must be applied often. 

Pets left with untreated flea infestation can suffer from tapeworms, anemia, hair loss, and skin problems.  Always consult with your vet when you pet has been exposed to fleas.  By the time you notice them, they have been there for at least a month maybe two.  The myth that your dog can not get fleas because he is not around other dogs is NOT true.  If you pet goes outside to relieve himself in the grass.  Rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, O' possums, and mice all carry fleas.  They can come in your yard and drop fleas without you knowing it.  In addition you can bring them in on your clothes and expose them to your pets.  This is especially true with indoor cats.  Do NOT use any essential oils on cats!  Only use products on cats that  clearly stated that it is safe to do so.  Products that are safe for dogs can kill a cat. A Cat's immune system is very delicate.  Whatever method you decide to use, please do not combine multiple treatments like a flea collar with a topical and powder.  Doing so, can put your pet's health at risk.  Too many chemicals can over work your pet's vital organs and you could be killing Fido right along with those fleas! The best way to attack the problem is to prevent it before it starts.  Start your topical treatment at the Spring thaw to prevent exposure.  Once your pet has been expose, have the pet treated in a separate location will the house is being flea bombed, and the pet's bedding is being washed.   Add a cup of distilled vinegar to the wash water and let it sit while the house is being treated.