Downeast Dog News

The Fleas are coming! The Fleas are coming!

May 30, 2013

With tick season in full swing and flea season on the way, I wanted to give you all some tips I’ve found helpful in repelling them. Now if it isn’t bad enough that their bites can be painful or itchy, these pests can seriously impact your pet’s health. Ticks carry Lyme disease and can cause long term damage to your dog’s kidneys as well as joints. A flea infestation can not only lead to severe allergies from bites but also anemia and quite often worms! Once fleas find their way into your home, it can take several months and lots of money to evict them. So let’s start off with helpful hints on how to stop them from jumping onto your pet in the first place. Even if you are doing a monthly spot treatment purchased from your vet, you may STILL find fleas on your dog. Most over the counter spot treatments don’t repel fleas but simply kill them once they bite. They don’t always die immediately and are often able to insinuate themselves and their eggs into your home first. There are a variety of natural sprays that can be used WITH your current spot treatment. Because they DON’T contain pesticides, they can be used safely without fear of overdose. Some of my favorites are: Vets Best, Sentry Natural Defense, and Mutt Nose Best U. Tick Me Off. Again these sprays are all natural so feel free to spray your pants legs and hair with them too; they are fantastic for repelling black flies and mosquitos as well! Sentry Natural Defense also makes a spot treatment that can be used in the event that you no longer wish to use an over the counter treatment that contains pesticides. I will say that it works better as a deterrent than it does if applied after your dog has already accumulated fleas. If your dog has sensitive skin, you might try working from the inside out! Earth Animal makes  a powder that your dog eats.  After a couple weeks, your dog’s blood begins to taste nasty to fleas and ticks.

If your dog has fleas, then the best thing to do is drown them in the tub! Since your dog has fleas, it is highly likely that there are fleas or unhatched eggs in your home. What works best is to find a partner; one of you bathes your dog while the other vacuums, sprays, and mops your house top to bottom. Make sure to wash ALL laundry that may have resided on the floors as well as dogs beds, and if you have a vacuum bag, get it as far from your house as possible (yes, fleas are tiny - they CAN crawl out of the bag and back into your life). Food grade Diatomaceous Earth makes an incredibly efficient low cost solution for homes with lots of carpeting. It can be sprinkled and worked into the carpet and then left for a day or two before vacuuming up. It is safe to walk over and okay if pets lick it.  Meanwhile in the tub, make sure you start with the head. Most traditional flea shampoos are harsh and contain mild pesticides that can be harmful as well as irritating to the skin, so if at all possible, use a natural shampoo like Vets Best or U. Tick Me Off. I recommend sudsing your pet’s head with Blue Dawn dish soap, carefully avoiding eyes and noses. A thick layer is important as it works to suffocate the fleas. I say to start with the head because during every flea bath I’ve ever given, it becomes the all important ‘high ground’ of the battle field. A flea can ‘hold its breath’ for up to 10 minutes in water, so it’s critical to make sure that every inch of your dog is lathered up thickly and allowed to soak for a minimum of 10 minutes. If your dog has an allergic reaction to fleas (you’ll know from the hair loss, bright red skin, and hot spots), then I love products that contain Neem. Made from a pungent rainforest plant, this stuff will kill the hardiest bugs while also soothing and healing the skin. Halo makes a flea ‘dip’ that is comprised of essential oils; it is highly versatile. A few drops to any shampoo, in your laundry or mop bucket, and even on your dog’s collar works very effectively to turn on-hand items into ‘flea repelling’ products. It is a GREAT budget saver!

With a persistent infestation, it is best to repeat this process in two weeks (when the dormant eggs hatch) while vacuuming regularly. Try not to get frustrated; to thoroughly remove fleas from your home can take a while. As always, the best protection is a good preventative so prepare yourselves: Flea season is coming!