Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

Fleas 101

by User Not Found | Apr 08, 2012

Fleas, ah yes those little mysterious creepy crawleys.  Fleas are only about the size of a pin and they have no wings, but boy can they jump.  Most times you see a flea, it’s a cat flea (I never liked cats).  The best way to know if your dog has fleas or not is that they itch like crazy.  Even if you don’t see any fleas on them, it is likely at least one has bitten them.  My little Gracie has such a horrible flea allergy that all it takes is one bite to send her into a frenzy of itching and scratching.  She, at least once a year, will turn into a baboon butt.  She bites and chews a place she has been bitten, usually around the base of her tail.  This basically manifests itself into a giant red, angry, weepy mess.  It looks much like a hot spot for those of you that are familiar with those...probably if you have a golden, you are.  I shave it, so it can dry up, sometimes have to give her antibiotics and she goes around for about 2 weeks with a shaved butt.  My goal is to find a product that will keep each and every flea off of her.   As I said before, use what works for you.  There are oral medications and topicals, so find one that works for you.  And if you are in an area where you see a lot of fleas, my suggestion would be to use a Heartworm preventative that also covers Tapeworms.  We can talk more about worms later, but not all heartworm medications cover Tapeworms, so be sure to read carefully or ask.  Dogs, rabbits, squirrels, among others get Tapeworms by ingesting fleas that have tapeworm eggs.  Tapeworms won’t hurt your dog, it’s more of a mutual relationship, but they are nasty little things and can make some dogs sick.  Praziquantal is the name of the medication that is used to kill tapeworms, so it would be listed on the box of Heartworm Medication.  An example is Iverhart Max, it contains Ivermectin (Heartworms), pyrantel (roundworms, hookworms) and praziquantal (tapeworms).  Pamoate is just a salt used to transport the drugs where they need to go.  With all the medications and their various versions, like Plus or Max or Extra or whatever, be sure to read carefully.

Aside from flea preventative, a great cheap investment is a flea comb.  It’s a fine tooth comb that will not only help you keep your golden from dropping every hair into your house, it will help you look for fleas.  It’s unlikely you will find an actual flea, remember these are miniature super bugs, but you will find flea “dirt”.  Now really, flea dirt is just a nice way of saying flea poop.  When you comb your dog, look at the clumps of hair for small black dots or flecks.  During high paranoia season, everything may look like flea poop, but if you get a black fleck wet, like on a paper towel, and it turns red, its flea dirt, or poop.  Basically that’s blood. Well come on, what did you expect, you know fleas feed of off our dogs to get a blood meal, what do you think comes out the other end?!  You may also see white flecks and these can be flea eggs.  But I don’t have a good test for those, so stick to playing with poop.  Oh and don’t forget to wash your hands.

Fleas are not only annoying to your dog, they can also bite you.  Flea allergy dermatitis (skin irritation) is really common in dogs and can cause everything from hair loss to infection.  So brush often and keep your eyes peeled.  Once these little buggers get into the house, they can lay eggs everywhere, including your carpet and in between floor boards.  It can take treating the house and the pets to get rid of all of them and that can take several weeks.  Female fleas can lay 50-100 eggs at a time.  It’s a good idea to vacuum and then take the trash out.  Even if you dispose of them in the trash can, don’t be surprised if they find their way back out.   The vet techs at my office often push Sentinel which is a Heart Worm preventative made by Novartis.  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t like to go around bad mouthing products by name and I certainly love many things that Novartis makes for the veterinary world, however this is not one of them.  Not only is it the most expensive Heartworm medication on the market (at about $15 bucks a pill), they also claim that if you use it, you don’t need topical flea prevention.  Now this is not entirely true.  Sentinel has a medication that sterilizes the eggs produced by the female fleas once they BITE your dog.  So, flea has to jump on your dog, bite them, and then any eggs it lays will be sterile.  Well that’s a great thing, except it doesn’t keep you from having to use topicals because you still need to do something about the ticks.  The other problem is that it doesn’t keep fleas from jumping on and biting your dog.  So in the case of my Gracie, she would still get a reaction and break out like a wild baboon’s butt.  And it doesn’t cover tapeworms.  I live near the woods, land of a thousand squirrels and raccoons.  We see fleas, so we prevent tapeworms.  In case I haven’t said it enough, use what works for you.  Oh and its ok to look for something a little less expensive too.


Happy Hunting!


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