As the weather starts warming up, and if you haven’t already, you might want to start thinking about flea & tick prevention for your dog. Fleas need warm temperatures to survive, and although they are common all year round, they will thrive in the warmer months.
Although few dog owners are fortunate enough to avoid a run-in with fleas, controlling them has become much simpler, safer, and more effective in the last few years. New products that break the flea’s reproductive cycle make it possible to keep the little critters away without exposing your dog to toxic chemicals. There are also plenty of at-home prevention methods available, which I will discuss below.
If your dog is continuously itching and scratching, this will most likely be your first clue that he/or she has fleas. If you do notice this, the first thing you should do is take a closer look. Although you may actually see the little dark brown bugs, your more likely to see what look like little black and white specks. The black specks are flea feces (or better known as “flea dirt”) and the white specks are their eggs.
If you think you’ve spotted some but aren’t quite sure, run a flea comb over your dog’s back, groin area, haunches, and tail. These are the places fleas like to hide out in most.
It’s important to stay on top of your dogs flea symptoms and behaviour. As while most dogs experience nothing more than itching, there is the possibility that others can develop flea allergy dermatitis. Heavy infestations can be serious enough to cause anemia, and some fleas carry diseases, such as typhus and tapeworm infections, that can be transmitted to your dog.
To completely get rid of fleas, you have to disrupt their life cycle. Fleas thrive in moist, humid environments — that’s why they’re a much bigger problem in the summer than in winter.
An adult flea can actually live for four months on the body of a dog, but it’ll die in a couple of days without a host. The biggest problem you’ll find is their eggs. A female flea can produce as many as 2,000 eggs during her short lifespan. The eggs fall off and hatch all over the house — mainly found in the carpet, on the couch and under the covers. Eventually those newly hatched fleas will need to find a host of their own, and the whole cycle starts all over again. So it’s not enough to kill the adult fleas; you have to get rid of all the eggs too.
New products are less toxic than older remedies and have made it easier to protect your dog from fleas. Some of these options can be pricey, but the upside is that they work. Some of our favourites are;
- Revolution; Just one application a month provides protection against heartworms, fleas and other parasites. Can be used to treat puppies as young as 6 weeks, and is available in sizes to treat dogs up to 130 lbs with one simple monthly dose.
- Advantage; Applied topically once every 4 weeks. Should only be used as a short term solution. Advantage; Applied topically once every 4 weeks. Should only be used as a short term solution.
- Ovicollar; contains Precor, a non-toxic product that kills flea eggs. When the collar is worn continuously a single Ovicollar will work for up to 12 months on cats, 10 months on dogs.
How to prevent fleas – At home
Although we do recommend beginning a medicated flea treatment for your dog, there are a few other things you can do at home to prevent the infestation of fleas.
Regular grooming & bathing of your dog is a good first step, which can also allow you to check your dogs skin and fur for any signs of fleas or irritation. This is best done with a natural shampoo formulated for dogs. An Oatmeal Shampoo is perfect for dogs with dry, itchy skin and allergies.
Ensure that you are washing your dog’s bedding in hot, soapy water once a week. If your dog spends time on a blanket on the sofa, or any type of bedding, wash that too.
And finally, be on the lookout when you vacuum your home. Get into the corners too, and pay special attention to the areas around where your dog spends the most of his/or her time. Be sure to empty the canister and dispose of its contents after each clean.