How to Keep Your Dog Healthy and Flea Free

Fleas are probably one of the worst side effects of owning a dog. The dog invariably has to go outside, in for nothing else but to get a little exercise while relieving themselves. In the grass, the sand, the weeds, and in fact just about any outdoor surface, lies a little vampire just waiting for its next victim. It does not care what it is that passes by them, as long as it is alive and has pumping blood. This is a definite problem while trying to keep your dog healthy.

With amazing agility and strength, a flea can jump anywhere within a 6 foot radius, and probably just as high from a stand still position on the ground. Their legs can propel their bodies amazing distances when comparing body size to measurable distance. And if they catch a scent of you, they can hunt you down quickly. All they need is a warm body and blood that can be brought to the surface.

But most often than not, the dog is the most likely victim. They are closer to the ground. They walk the grounds more frequently. And what flea in their right mind can resist all that warm protective fur acting like a beautiful canopy of protection above the flea as it drinks fresh blood like a margarita on a beach, barely noticed.

THE COMMON FLEA

The best way to see a flea is in a book. At least, that is my preferred way. To see a live one usually strikes panic in dog owners. This is because these really little creatures are rarely seen unless you are specifically looking for them. They are about the size of the diameter of a pin (the sewing pins you use to hold material until you sew it). They are varying colors of light brown to brown. And you can squeeze one with all the strength you have between your thumb and index finger and not harm it the flea at all.

The flea is absolutely the number one infestation your dog is likely to come into contact with of all the possible external parasites. They live by drinking blood. They can attach themselves to skin and hair follicles easily with barbed legs. Their legs are probably the strongest in the whole of animal (including human) kingdom, especially when size versus capability is taken into consideration.

Fleas start off as eggs, hatch, and move through the stages of their lives quickly, within days. The flea can lay literally hundreds of eggs each day. In a matter of days these eggs hatch, turn into adults within days, and then lay hundreds of eggs a day themselves. Like a pyramid scheme on overdrive, you can see how hundreds producing hundreds that produce hundreds of fleas within a short amount of days could become troublesome in very little time.

INDICATIONS THAT YOUR DOG HAS FLEAS

If you have a dog with fleas, you will start to notice these things almost immediately.
Scratching - Your dog will be sitting or laying down somewhere, and what seems like just out of the blue, whip its head to an area at the base of its tail and starts nipping with its teeth. It can also start nipping on its stomach, or near the crotch area and base area of its legs.

The scratching can be continually back leg to behind the ear scratching. Your dog might even roll over on its back and wriggle all over on your carpet, even whining in the process.
Skin Irritation - Fleas, like mosquitoes, have saliva that skin does not tolerate well. It is the saliva that inflames human skin from a mosquito bite, not the bite itself. The flea does the same thing to your dog.

If the fleas concentrate in an area, or even worse, your dog is allergic to the saliva of the flea, the area is going to lose hair and become inflamed at the minimum. This area could loose all the hair, exposing a bald spot. The skin in the area could look really dry like a sun burn, flaking off from your dog. It can even become infected and/or bleeding from the combination of the attacks, your dog's skin reaction, and your dog's physical reaction of the fleas (biting, nipping, and scratching).

Holy Crap Batman! - No, but seriously flea feces is always an indication of infestation. The way to find out is to inspect the dog's skin at the surface. Move the hairs around in areas he seems to be scratching. If you are seeing little black specs on the skin, chances are you are seeing flea feces. You might even see a flea itself, but don't think your dog is in the clear if you don't. Fleas are hard to detect.

Another way is to try to use a fine comb near the base of the hair. After combing the area, try wiping the comb on a napkin, Kleenex, paper towel, or even toilet paper. As long as it is white. Because if flea feces is present it will show up on whatever you are wiping the comb off with. If it is white, you see spots on it, reddish (like drying blood). The main food source being blood, it only makes sense, right?

PLEASE GET RID OF THESE FLEAS!

Treating the dog is the first priority. Unfortunately it does not stop there. Once a flea rides your dog into the house, they have a tendency to lay eggs everywhere they go. They'll lay eggs on carpet, bedding, furniture, just about any surface. And more than likely it has been a few days and you have several generations, or at the minimum stages of ages, of fleas all throughout your house.

You will have to get something for the dog that kills everything from eggs to adults. Then you will probably have to buy a separate attack for the house. There are foggers, powders, and other types that you can use. Again, the important thing is that it kills all stages from eggs to adults.

It usually goes something like this: 1) treat the dog (bath using flea shampoo, combing, and then treatment) 2) house attack. 3) wash all bedding, clothing, drapes, towels, etc. 4) vacuum floor to suck up dead and eggs. 5) treat carpet again in the morning 6) vacuum at night. 7) repeat 5 and 6 until you are confident new eggs, hatchlings, newbies, and soon to be adults survived.

That covers the household inside. Now you have to complete the tasks by spraying or fogging your yard. I bet you forgot about the yard. This is where the dog picked up the fleas more than likely. If you do not want to continue to go through the above steps in your house from spring to late fall, you definitely want to hit your yard too.

Hopefully, the two fold attack on both the inside and the outside of your house will eliminate the flea issue.

IS THERE AN EASIER WAY THAN THIS?

Well, actually there is a much easier path to take than what is described above. The name of the path is called, "prevention". Remember the old adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"? It holds true for fleas too.

The best thing to do is to get with your vet, or maybe use 800 pet meds or a web site to purchase a topical flea solution. The most commonly known and used ones are Advantage and Revolution. I am not sure which one it is, but one of them has the commercial with the cute little puppy going to summer camp singing, "There ain't no fleas on me..."

Some vets, especially down south where sandy areas produce a higher amount of fleas and ticks, offer flea dip baths. This is where you can bring your dog to the vets to literally "dip" your dog in a bath of water and a pesticide that kills fleas, ticks, and other pests. You may even be able to purchase some of it to be able to make your dip bath at home.

When I lived in Oklahoma one summer, many farms had a huge horse watering trough with a wooden cover. The farmers would bring home the dip around February and make a bath in the trough, dipping all their animals to protect them. Dogs, cats, rabbits, even goats!
Which brings up a rather good point to mention, if you have other animals in your house besides dogs, like say cats, ferrets, whatever, you are going to have to either use prevention or cure each of them. If you do not take care of all of them at once, the fleas will just "transfer" back and forth from pet to pet. You will never get rid of them then.

WHAT ABOUT OVER THE COUNTER FLEA CONTROL

Honestly, although I wish no ill will towards the manufactures of such products, you really should use the topical. It works the best, and no other company can really dispute it. Maybe use a flea shampoo from over the counter, but the rest of the stuff does not seem to be effective.

Sorry, it is what it is. Nothing sucks worse than trying to fight a flea infestation using all these over the counter products and have them only temporarily work. They may kill the adult fleas and the soon-to-be-adult fleas. But as soon as the eggs hatch a new batch of fleas, the battle starts all over again.

Definitely do not use the over the counter, or any for that matter, flea collars. The only good use of a flea collar is in the collection system of your vacuum as a secondary back up when vacuuming the floor. The collars work, usually only just around the area that the collar comes in contact with the skin of the dog.

Furthermore, it is now believed that the collars can cause more damage than good. The strong pesticides and other toxins used in the collars stay in contact with the dog's skin. This can not be good if you think about it. I am almost positive if a human wore one of these collars that they would develop some sort of skin cancer in the future (NOTE: this is my opinion only, and is speculative, there is no scientific evidence backing my opinion).

One final point about over the counter products, and vet products as well. If you keep using different products on the dog because the last one did not work, eventually you will "poison" your dog. Not intentionally, of course. But introducing chemical after chemical to your dog obviously can not have a positive effect.

SUMMATION

Fleas cause your dog pain and suffering. This comes in the form of itching and inflamed skin, a dull coat, and bald spots. In some rare cases the flea infestation can be so large that they literally drain your dog of too much blood, causing many health issues. You might see other effects like sluggishness, sickly fevers, and even forms of paralyzing in some extreme cases.

Signs of fleas are your dog scratching, biting, and/or nipping certain areas on the body, especially around the base of the tale, their belly, their crotch area, and around their ears. Inspection of the pet's skin closely might reveal the little black specs indicative of flea feces. A fine comb and a white paper product can be used to find evidence of fleas by combing the suspected area and wiping the comb with the paper product. If red colored specs or blotches form on the paper, it is evidence of flea feces.

Prevention is the best approach to stop a flea infestation to begin with. Use vet recommended topical solutions that kill all stages of fleas, from eggs to adults. Over the counter products (other than perhaps a shampoo) are not recommended to use on your dog. If any other animals are part of the family, they need treatment and/or preventative measures as well. Don't forget to get the yard and other areas outside your pets frequent.

Once in the middle of an infestation, you need to attack both the inside and the outside of your house to be effective. Make sure you clean all possible materials that fleas and there eggs may be. This includes bedding (both human and pet), carpets, furniture, and other surfaces throughout the house. Several attacks and vacuum sessions on the carpet especially is recommended.

Ian Westynn considers himself a Renaissance man who likes to speak on many subjects. He loves to learn new things daily and has just recently found an outlet as being a web author. The above article can be used freely as long as this resource box is with the article. Ian occasionally writes for a blog too, you can visit it by going to http://MIPetBlog.com For the cost of one vet visit you can have Dog Health a great overall guide to keep your dog healthy at home.

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