Whether or not you actually see fleas on your dog, they may be there. Scratching, scabs and dark specs, or "flea dirt" on her skin can all be signs that she has become the unwitting host for a family of fleas. During their 6 to 12 month life span a pair of fleas can produce millions of offspring. Hardy offspring, at that: fleas have survived millions of years in a variety of environments, so wherever you live, check your dog!
Fleas can carry tapeworms too. If you notice small white rice-like things in your pet's feces or in the hair around her anus, she probably has tapeworms, which means she may also have fleas. In advanced cases, she may be lethargic and her lips and gums may turn pale. Take her to a vet immediately if she has any of these symptoms.
Battling flea infestation requires PATIENCE and PERSEVERANCE, so put on your armor and get to it! Because the presence of fleas indicates that your pup's coat also hides flea eggs, it will take at least three to four weeks to completely rid her and her environment of this pesky parasite. Different flea products work in different ways, having varying levels of effectiveness; and they kill different flea stages (eggs, larvae and/or adults). You'll need to use a product that has been proven to kill in all the stages, or use a combination of products at the same time to be effective.
Shampoos, powders, and sprays will usually kill the adult fleas on your pup. Using a flea comb regularly will help too. But more adults may be lurking in your home or yard, and eggs or larvae may be laying in wait as well. You'll need to rid your house of fleas by vacuuming and washing pup's bedding once a week, and using a disinfectant on washable surfaces; and an insecticide or insect growth regulator in cracks and crevices. Sometimes foggers are recommended every two to four weeks.
When using chemical products be very careful. You may be providing too much of a potentially toxic chemical if you use, say, a flea shampoo and a fogger that contain the same active ingredient. Always check with your veterinarian before beginning your war on fleas. To assist you with clearing your home of these parasites, you may want to hire a professional exterminator. Your vet may know someone who's experienced with flea infestations.
In recent years, flea control has made great advances. Today there are liquid products which you apply to pup's skin on the back of her neck (so she can't lick the chemical). These products, such as Frontline, K9Advantix, Programme and Advantage, let you treat your pet once a month. The medication enters the bloodstream through the skin and makes flea (and tick) bites toxic without harming your pet. Some of them also create an odor which is undetectable to us but repels fleas and ticks so they don't get into pup's coat in the first place. Be very careful to use these products as directed; some may be effective for dogs, but toxic to cats. Also, you need to wash your hands thoroughly after applying the medication, and make sure children don't touch the affected on your pet area until it dries.
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