Fleas


"...fleas can pester your dog throughout the fall. "Fleas are attracted to warm-bodied areas and prefer your dog... when temperatures start to cool outdoors..."

"Her top advice: Run a flea comb through your dog's coat daily.. "When combing, pay special attention to the inside of the ears, corners of the eyes, around the muzzles, and in the groin area."

"At bath time, use a metal comb to remove any fleas or eggs before applying water... use a dog shampoo that contains citrus extracts, pyrethrins, citronella, cedar, and/or eucalyptus -- all noted for repelling fleas naturally...

"..at-home strategies to fight the war on fleas between baths:

  • "Vacuum weekly, adding flea powder to your vacuum bag; get the nozzle into crevices of sofas and chairs. Seal the bag and toss it immediately in an outdoor trashcan with a tight-fitting lid.

  • "Wash your dog's bedding, rugs, and towels in hot water weekly.

  • "Wash toys, collars, and leashes in hot soapy water weekly; rinse and dry.

  • "Treat outdoor areas to prevent re-infestation of fleas. Get rid of any stagnant pools of water or tall grass -- two prime flea-breeding locations" (Moore, Arden. "Grooming Tip: Fight Fall Fleas." Dog Fancy, September 2003, 66).


"Flea allergy dermatitis is thought to be the most common skin problem affecting dogs worldwide... However, the incidence in our practice has dramatically decreased following the introduction of modern flea-control products. Unfortunately, we continue to see dogs and cats that do suffer from FAD. Chronic pruritis, induced by an acquired hypersensitivity reaction to the saliva, may lead to severe discomfort, hair loss, skin thickening, and secondary bacterial infections..."

External treatments include Advantage, BioSpot Flea & Tick Control for Dogs, Frontline Plus, K9 Advantix, and Revolution. Oral treatments include Capstar, Program, and Sentinal. Environmental products include the Vet-Kem line of shampoos, foggers, and sprays.

"..unseen flea larvae and eggs can be hiding in the home's carpeting and upholstery and must also be treated.." (Dunn, T.J. Jr. "The War Against Parasites." Dog World, April 2003, 36-41).


"Allergies to parasites (especially flea bites, pollens, certain foods, dust mites, chemicals.. can cause itchy skin...

"..it's not always possible to identify.. the allergen. "Although flea-bite allergy can be confirmed through the presence of fleas or flea dirt, presence of fleas is not essential for a diagnosis," Frank says. "Flea-allergy diagnosis is based on the clinical distribution of the itching (Usually over the tail base) and lack of adequate flea control."

"A food trial with a novel protein can diagnose a food allergy.

"Treatments.. include allergy avoidance where possible, good flea control, anti-itch medication including antihistamines, and sometimes corticosteroids. Fatty-acid supplementation may also help an itchy dog.." (King, Marcia. "More Than Skin Deep." Dog Fancy, October 2003, 26-31).


There are problems with commercial flea chemicals... "Many of the most widely used commercial flea killers on the market are very effective poisons with long-term effects that remain unknown or are seldom discussed... Warnings against skin contact are printed right on the label...

"Prednisone and other corticosteroid drugs don't just suppress uncomfortable itching and inflammation, they suppress the immune system as well. Add to this the possible long-term side effects of water retention, hypertension, liver damage, thyroid dysfunction, obesity, and heart attack. [Prednisone tablets or shots also cause some dogs to urinate excessively]...

"In many cases, switching from kibble to a raw or home-cooked diet will bring a world of positive change to dogs who suffer from flea allergies...

"..weeding out allergens from the diet can bring quick positive results. Common food allergens include grains, yeast, soy, and synthetic preservatives.

"Supplementing your dog's diet with a well-balanced essential fatty acid (EFA) supplement is also important. In fact, EFAs may be the most important of all dietary supplements for flea allergy sufferers. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids contained in fish and vegetable oils play critical roles in how your companion's immune system responds to the introduction of flea saliva and other antigenic compounds that enter the body. EFAs are also important in building a strong, healthy, flea-resistant skin and coat -- making the feeding ground less attractive to hungry opportunists.

"Probiotics (Bifidus, Acidophilus, etc.) and digestive enzyme supplements are also strongly indicated for flea sufferers...

"Remember, fleas spend about 80 percent of their time not on the host, but in the surrounding environment. Furthermore, flea eggs can remain dormant for several months. This means that you must be relentless at hitting them where they sleep and reproduce...

"There are several herbal products available that can be applied to the dog's bedding, carpet, or outdoor areas to help repel or even kill fleas. Look for those that contain oils and/or extracts of juniper, citronella, eucalyptus, cedar, Canadian fleabane, or citrus oil (the latter two contain d-Limonene, which can kill fleas).

"Try adding apple cider vinegar to the animals' water dish -- some people swear by this, as it may add some nutrients that help the animal deal with the fleas.

"Animals supplemented with B-complex, trace minerals, and zinc also seem to have fewer problems with fleas...

"Nettle (Urtica spp.) is one of my favorites for treating any type of allergy.. The dried herb (easily accessed at the health food store) can be sprinkled onto your animal's food.. One-half teaspoon of the dried herb for each cup of food...

"Nettle is also thought to reduce the severity of an allergic response. If your animal won't eat dried nettle, you can steep it in hot water or salt-free meat broth, which is then added to your companion's food.

"If flea bite allergies are severe, itching is persistent, and the skin is red and inflamed, licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) can be used as an internal anti-inflammatory.. To help relive itching and promote healing externally, a calendula flower rinse is a good choice, as is aloe juice...

"Bathe your dog only with shampoos that are meant for use on dogs -- shampoos for humans can be too harsh and irritate the skin, and may add to the allergies that already contribute to your companion's misery...

"..don't shampoo your dog too often, as this can dry out her skin and cause added irritation.. Your companion's skin supports a natural community of inter-dependent organisms, many of which serve anti-parasitc or cleansing purposes" (Tilford, Greg. "Herbs for Flea Relief." Whole Dog Journal, June 2003, 21-23).


flea infestation...

"..bathe him with any mild dog shampoo, removing the fleas you find with a flea comb and dropping them into a bowl of rubbing alcohol.

"Wash his bedding in warm, soapy water every day, and dry it in a hot dryer. Vacuum the area thoroughly, and you will successfully remove any eggs that may have dropped off him, as well as the accumulation of sloughed skin cells and hair that flea larvae feed on once they hatch.

"By removing the fleas and preventing others from hatching, you'll successfully end the life cycle of these tiny pests" (Leslie Sinclair. "Checkup." Dog Fancy, April 2004: 64-65).


"It's also a good idea to steam clean the carpets to kill larvae and eggs... Be sure to move the furniture so you can clean as much of the carpet as possible" (Kim Campbell Thornton. "Putting Pests to Rest." Dog World, April 2004: 38-41).


Colby Glass, MLIS