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Flea & Tick Season… Are you ready?

12 Apr

Let’s get to the facts…With a single female flea capable of laying thousands of eggs in her lifetime; a small flea problem can quickly become an infestation. Experts say the only truly effective way to keep fleas off a dog or cat is with a topical or oral medication. Flea shampoo, dips and sprays only provide immediate relief by killing adult fleas on the pet. They won’t prevent the dog or cat from picking up more fleas from around your home or eggs that hatch (unfortunately there is a considerable amount of fleas in your house than on your pet).  It is important to choose the right dosage and to avoid harmful interactions with other medications your pet may be taking.  Always consult your vet before you start giving your dog any new medications.

Fleas aren’t simply a pesky parasite — they can affect the health of their host dog or cat. When a large number of fleas are present, the blood loss to the animal can be life threatening. Often the flea saliva triggers allergies, and the itching and scratching that ensue can lead to a more serious skin infection. Additionally, pets can contract tapeworms from infected fleas. If you notice your pet scratching, check the skin for a dark brown bug about the size of a sesame seed. If you spot fleas, the first course of action should be to start treatment right away of both your dog and your house.

Now that I have you all ‘itching’, let’s get down to the real question that is on everyone’s mind.  Which type of flea treatment/prevention should I use?   With the numerous amounts of options that are available this can be a tough choice without any knowledge.   Pet owners are becoming more aware of harsh chemicals that are in products.  This being said, products that contain natural ingredients have been on the rise.  I am going to enlighten you on both the natural and ‘not-natural’, flea products that you can use this coming flea season.

The most common choice is a spot on, topical treatment (i.e. Frontline or Advantage).  Topical treatments stop adult fleas from biting and will kill them within hours or days.  Topical treatments are squeezed out of a tube and applied between the pet’s shoulders or along the back. The chemical is stored in the oil glands under the animal’s skin, and then distributed continuously to its skin and hair.  Make sure not to put the treatment on directly after the pet has had a bath.  You should wait about 48 hours, so that the skin can produce oil for the treatment to attach to.

Another common choice is an oral medication (i.e. Program or Capstar).  Oral medications are often preferred in hot, humid climates that require year-round flea control or in households with children or multiple pets that shouldn’t come in contact with a topical treatment until it dries.

A different approach that has a more ‘natural’ effect is spray treatments.  There are some out there that have chemicals (i.e.  Bio Spot or Zodiac), and some that are made up of natural ingredients (i.e. Cedar-All, Only Natural Defense Spray, or Natural Chemistry).  Spray treatments can help with getting rid of the fleas in dark and inconvenient places such as under the couch cushion, in corners of the carpet, and inside vacuum bags. This product also works well to repel flies and mosquitoes which is great for things like camping trips.  The natural sprays are made up of cedar oil, lavender oil, citronella seed oil, or eucalyptus.  A nice characteristic that the natural sprays have to the human nose is that they smell nice, but still keep the insects off!  The only throwback to the natural spray is that it does not have a long lasting effect.  Studies show that these sprays usually last up to 5 hours.  These require more frequent applications.  Really it comes down to the comfort of the pet owner and weather you are able to reapply and carry the spray with you.

I am sure that most of you have heard of flea collars.  These are proven to have very little effectiveness to preventing fleas.  Furthermore, the NRDC conducted a study on the toxicity of flea collars and found elevated neurological and cancer risks to humans. After dogs and cats wore flea collars treated with tetrachlorvinphos or propoxur for two weeks, a laboratory tested residue levels on the animals’ fur. The findings reveal half to three-quarters of the pets had “enough residue on their fur to pose significant neurological risks for toddlers who spend about two hours per day with their pet.” The study also found a cancer risk “50 to 500 times greater than what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers acceptable” in adults and an even higher risk for children.

Like I said before, there are more fleas imbedded into your carpet, on your furniture, and in bedding than on the dog (only about 10% make home on the dog itself).  A good way to fight the fleas in your home is by using carpet powders (i.e. Flea Go, Diatimaceous Earth, or Bio Spot).   Flea powders are considerably less expensive than the popular spot-on products. In addition, they are highly multifunctional and can be used on pets, carpet, bedding, furniture and even in your yard to prevent flea infestation.  Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring substance formed from the shells of diatoms, a type of algae. Diatoms’ silicon shells fall off when they die and fossilize in the earth. Taking this earth and grinding it into a powder consistency produces a chemical-free alternative for flea control.  This is starting to get very popular for its natural flea control effects.

Ultimately, I think it really depends on where you live, and the different levels of infestation that occur.  Sometimes it is necessary to use spot-on treatments just to prevent your dog from getting bit by something that is going to potentially be disease-carrying.  I correspondingly think it is also about the efficiency along with safety.  It’s the pet owner’s preference on how comfortable they are with using an all-natural product and how comfortable they are using the spot-on treatments.  The first sing of fleas are the most important to catch because of how fast they spread and produce.   I hope this information can help make your decision easier on where to start the flea treatment fun!  In the end, you want your furry friend to be comfortable and FLEA FREE!

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