Fleas are the most common cause of itching and skin irritation in dogs. Over 50 percent of all skin allergies in dogs are due to fleas. The allergy is actually a reaction to a protein component of the fleas’ saliva. When these “allergic dogs” are bitten by a flea, they itch themselves until their skin is raw. Most also end up with areas of hair loss and secondary bacterial skin infections. In addition, fleas suck blood, cause anemia, and transmit tapeworms. (NOTE: Fleas can jump 3 feet high.)
SYMPTOMS: Itching; Flea Dirt; Hair loss at the base of the tail and over the hind end
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Signs of fleas include itching, especially at the base of the tail, and tiny blackspecks that look like dirt. To confirm that this “dirt” is flea dirt, place it on a moist cotton ball. Flea dirt will turn red because of the blood it contains.
Once your dog has been diagnosed with a flea problem, you need to treat all of the pets in the home and the home itself. In your house, vacuum the carpets and throw away used vacuum bags so that flea eggs do not hatch in the bag. For your carpeting, insect-growth regulators like fenoxycarb or methoprene last up to 18 months. As an alternative, you can sprinkle borax onto the carpet, then vacuum. Borax will protect against fleas for up to one year. Be sure to wash your dog’s bedding with hot soapy water. Finally, bathe all the animals living in your home. Use a flea shampoo with pyrethrins or d-limolene as the active ingredient.
In your yard, natural products that contain nematodes are best. Nematodes are live microscopic worms that eat the larval and pupal forms of fleas and 250 other pests. Spray your yard, especially the dark, damp areas that are fleas’ favorite places.
(NOTE: Constant itching may be a sign that your pet is allergic to fleas. Also, fleas can live up to one year in your home and yard. If you’re allergic to fleas, one flea bite sets up a reaction that causes itching for up to 14 days. Fleas also bite people and other pets. The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is often the primary problem for cats and dogs. Cats are very susceptible to insecticides. Be sure to read labels and only use products specifically approved for your pet. )
WHAT YOUR VET CAN DO:
Today, prevention is the key to flea control. Your vet can perscribe the most appropriate product for your pet. Many new or over the counter monthly products are available. Program is a tablet given monthly that contains lufereron which causes fleas to lay sterile eggs and prevents environmental contamination. Program is very safe and is labeled for cats and dogs. Sentinel is also a onthly tablet that prevents fleas, intestinal worms and heartworm disease in dogs. Advantage, Frontline, and Revolution are preventative products available in liquid form, which are applied to the skin between the shoulder blades at 30-day intervals. Advantage prevents fleas. Frontline kills fleas on contact and prevents ticks on cats and dogs. Revolution is used to prevent fleas and heartworm disease. Regardless of the product used, prevention should start in the spring, when the temperature reaches 65-70 degrees F on a regular basis.
Fleas live primarily in the environment and not on your pet. They only stay on your pets long enough to get a blood meal, then they jump back down to the ground and lay ore eggs. The presence of just one flea on your dog means a thousand more are around the corner, that’s why prevention is so important.
(NOTE: In dogs, fleas prefer the area that runs from the base of the tail up the back. This is referred to as the “Flea Triangle”. In cats, fleas prefer the head and the neck. In people, fleas bite the ankles and lower legs. )