Fleas! Horrible little things – and if your pet is flea allergic – you and your loved ones suffer. Here is some advice to help you prevent, treat, and understand the risks and symptoms associated with fleas in your pets.
- know your flea season
- know your enemy
- plan when to start prevention
- decide if you will try to fight off the evil beasts naturally or chemically
- boost your dog’s immune system
- be wary of generic flea products
- ignore skin issues, like flakes or greasiness
- expect fleas to go away on their own, or in the winter
- use flea shampoos, dips, or unregulated products
- leave fleas untreated
If you live in southern parts of the United States, your flea season will be much different than for those living in colder, more northern areas. Other parts of the world will find the same things. Do some research online and ask your veterinarian when the flea season is in your specific area.
An adult flea can live for 100 days. One adult female can lay 5000 eggs. For every 5 adults you see, there are 95 others getting ready to be adults (juveniles, larvae, pupae and eggs). Fleas love 70-85F temperatures and 70% humidity. It is possible for adult fleas to live 1.5 years. Fleas hatch every 2-4 weeks depending on temperatures.
By knowing your enemy, you can plan how to counter-attack. If you live in warm places where temperatures and humidity are always moderate, you could battle fleas year-round; especially if your neighbors aren’t committed to the war. If you live where winters are cold, then spring is time to prep. And figure you will battle until the first hard, cold frost. Some years, cold, hard frosts don’t come – these years, everyone fights fleas to one extent or another.
If you are fortunate to have a low flea burden and to have time to fight fleas naturally, then you are lucky indeed. Natural methods include the ever-controversial garlic (small amounts are safe), diatomaceous earth, essential oils like cedar, citronella, eucalyptus, tea tree and lemongrass, amongst others. Chrysanthemums can repel fleas but be careful as pyrethrin, a poisonous chemical, comes from Chrysanthemums. There are electronic bug zappers, and repellant neck scarves. Some dog parents find a flea comb every day to be enough to catch and get rid of the little buggers. Some people, and their dogs, are not so fortunate and need to resort to chemical methods. Topical spot-ons, oral pills, and collars are just a few. Regardless of your weapon of choice, remember the life cycle of the flea can be 2 weeks in the peak season and your treatment method may not last the whole time it says it does on the package.
Easiest way to do this is with real food – not the dry, crunchy stuff, but the yummies found in your fridge. If not that, then at least food with meat, no corn, no dyes, no by-products. But food isn’t the only answer to a strong immune system. Minimal vaccines, minimal interventions help the immune system be stronger. Getting to the “why” of health issues, rather than just treating the symptoms, will make the body stronger. Vitamin C, Ginseng, Turmeric, Ginger, Echinacea, Astragalus and Cat’s Claw are just some of the herbs that can help the immune system. Good immunity inside the body gives good immunity to the skin – which helps keep the fleas out.
Recently, there are many generic flea medications that carry the same amount of active chemical as the brand name flea medications. Here’s the bummer: it’s the inactive ingredients that make the active ingredient spread out and work that makes the product effective. The inactive ingredients are still on manufacturer patent. Shoot, if you are running low on cash, Dawn liquid dish soap kills fleas (most regular soaps and shampoos should also kill fleas without the chemicals). But remember, flea baths lose their effectiveness when your dog is dry – the new flea gets right bac
Greasy, flaky skin is a sign your dog’s skin’s immune system is not working optimally. At the least, greasy skin doesn’t tend to distribute topical products very well and these dogs have bigger issues with fleas. Flakes and dandruff means your dog is dry on the inside. Try adding canned or real meat to your dog’s diet. Skin greasiness is often a sign of a yeast infection. To get rid of skin yeast, you have to fight it in the whole body. And this starts in the guts. So, grain-free foods, perhaps add a tablespoon of plain greek yogurt, or even get your dog a yeast cleanse. Regardless, until the skin is cleared up, chances are good your dog will fight fleas worse than most dogs.
Since fleas love 70-85F weather, and that is the common temperature of our homes in winter, fleas will be more than happy to vacation in our homes. That’s why we have to get rid of them, one way or the other, before winter sets in.
Now, how the heck are you going to know if it’s a regulated product? Well, know this: flea meds are regulated by the EPA, not the FDA. The FDA worries about side effects. The EPA worries about environmental contamination. So, if the EPA isn’t worried about side effects, then as long as the product doesn’t enter the ecosystem, it doesn’t matter if it can be toxic to our pets. Many over the counter products are just that: toxic to our pets. Flea shampoos and flea dips, most especially, are toxic. Dogs can go into liver failure, have seizures and/or die from over the counter flea meds. These days, you can find the name brands that vets carry in superstores. Let’s use the safer (anything can be toxic in certain circumstances) products vets carry, regardless of where you get them.
Overwhelming flea infestations will suck the blood out of your dog and cause life-threatening anemia (blood loss). It is uncommon but tends to happen to small dogs, older dogs, and it’s devastating when an older dog dies from fleas.
No one wants to deal with fleas. Yuck! Horrible little blood suckers. Opportunists. They are well adapted to our world. Keeping them out of our homes makes life more comfortable – for ourselves and our beloved dogs.