Controlling and Preventing Fleas in Dogs
The ordinary cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)is the leading cause of itching and scratching in dogs and cats. Fleas survive by jumping onto a host animal, cutting open their skin, and feeding on the blood. In many dogs, the bites cause only a mild itch, but a heavy infestation in a puppy or small dog can cause severe anemia and even death.
Some dogs develop a marked hypersensitivity to the saliva of fleas and experience intense itching which results in skin abrasions, hair loss, and secondary pyoderma (see Flea Allergy Dermatitis). Fleas are also an intermediate host for tapeworms.
Flea infestation can be diagnosed by finding fleas on the dog or by seeing black-and-white, salt-and-pepper-like grains in the coat. These particles are flea feces (the “pepper”) and flea eggs (the “salt”). Fecal material is made up of digested blood. When brushed onto a wet paper, it turns a reddish brown.
The adult flea is a small dark brown insect about 2.5 millimeters in size and can be seen with the naked eye. Although fleas have no wings and cannot fly, they do have powerful back legs and can jump great distances. Fleas move through the hair rapidly and are difficult to catch. Run a fine-tooth flea comb through the hair to look for fleas on your dog's back, in the groin, and around the tail and hindquarters. Itching is most pronounced in these areas.
New Methods of Flea Control
For more immediate results, and especially if the dog is suffering from flea allergy dermatitis, Program should be combined with a flea shampoo or some other topical insecticide treatment. Advantage or Frontline can be added to Program to kill adult fleas within one to two days. It may be necessary to eliminate fleas on the premises using insecticides.
Advantage kills fleas on direct contact and may reduce hatching eggs and larvae. Following application, 98 to 100 percent of adult fleas are killed within 12 hours. Thus, any new fleas that infest the dog should be killed before they have a chance to lay eggs. This breaks the flea life cycle and eventually eliminates fleas in the environment. Advantage is not absorbed into the dog's system, and therefore is nontoxic. Humans do not absorb the chemical after petting a treated dog. Advantix is a new formulation that also acts against ticks.
One drawback of Advantage is that it loses some of its effectiveness if the dog's coat becomes thoroughly wet more often than once a week. If this happens, the dog can be retreated as often as once a week.
This article is excerpted from “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.
Copyright © 2007 by Howell Book House. All rights reserved.