When summer comes around, so do fleas — Treating Flea Bites that can make your dog’s life (and yours) miserable. There are things you can do to minimize the chances of flea infestation and other measures you can take if they have already invaded your home.
First let’s look at the steps necessary to keep the fleas away; without using chemicals. This natural flea prevention will work best to prevent fleas from taking hold and can also be used if you have a very light flea infestation.
Keep your carpets vacuumed! Vacuum daily and get some wide tape to seal up the vacuum bags as soon as you remove them from the vacuum cleaner. If you DON’T have small children around, use pennyroyal leaves either fresh (if available) or dried and spread them around your carpet to repel fleas.
Keep your dog’s bedding clean by washing it in warm water and soap. When it is dry apply some cedar oil to the bedding to help repel the fleas. Keep the area around your dog’s bed free of dust and dirt.
Give your dog a bath once a week with cedar shampoo (bathing more frequently may dry out its skin). If your dog does get dry skin it will attract fleas — just what you don’t want. Give a dog with dry skin some Linatone oil mixed with its food. Something else you can mix, in very small doses, with your dogs food to repel fleas is a mixture of garlic and brewer’s yeast. With this mixture in the dog’s system, it will give off a scent that you won’t be able to notice but fleas will notice it and they hate it.
If you mix lavender oil (60 ml) with rock salt (2.8 liters) you will have a great flea repellent that can be spread around the places where your dog goes and can also be used as a dog shampoo.
Fill your outside flower beds with marigolds — they have natural flea repellent properties and also repel other bugs.
Try boiling either lemon peels or orange peels in water to create a solution that can be used as a dog dip and can be used on the dogs bedding before washing it.
Another effective dog dip, if you are experiencing a light infestation, is warm water, shampoo and laundry detergent; immerse the dog’s body in this for ten or fifteen minutes and then rinse thoroughly.
If you have a heavy flea infestation you may have to resort to chemicals — all these products can be used safely if you follow the directions that come with the products.
Advantage. Advantage is a flea poison made by Bayer. Apply the Advantage (liquid) to the dog’s coat as directed. Advantage should work for about one month, Advantage’s active ingredient, imidacloprid, upsets the nervous system of any flea that comes in contact with it. Advantage kills flea’s fast and should kill all the fleas on the dog in about two days; but it is not absorbed into the dog’s bloodstream or internal organs. The active ingredient, imidacloprid is a chloronicotinyl nitroguanidine, integrated from the nitromethylene class of a compound. The imidacloprid affects the nicotinyl receptor sites of insects and upsets the flea’s normal nerve transmission, resulting in death. Advantage costs $15 to $20 for a set of two vials.
Frontline. Frontline is very similar to Advantage but it is not water soluble; this means alcohol is required to wash it off the dog. Frontline is safe for use on puppies as well as adult dogs, kittens and adult cats and it will work for approximately four months.
The active ingredients in Frontline include: Fipronil 5-amino -1- (2, 6-dichloro-4 [trifluoromethyl]phenyl) -4- (1,R,S)- (trifluoromethyl0sulfinyl) -1H-pryazole-3-carbonitrile 0.29% inert ingredients 99.71%. Fipronil, from the new phenylpyrazole class, is very effective at killing fleas by attacking their nervous systems. Fipronil is safe for use on dogs and cats that are not allergic to it. Tests have shown that Fipronil will kill up to 95% of a pet’s fleas within two hours and all the fleas within the first 24 hours — ticks are killed instantly on contact.
Knockout. Knockout is as effective as Frontline and works in the same way but Knockout can not be used on cats.
Knockout’s active ingredients are: Pyriproxyfen: 21[1-methyl-2-(phenoxyphenoxy)ethyoxy] pyridine….0.05% cyclopropanecarboxylate 2.00% inert ingredients 97.95% Knockout also contains NYLAR, a flea-growth regulator.
Biospot. Biospot is used topically, like the other products and, in tests, killed up to three quarters of the fleas, ticks and their eggs; like Knockout, Biospot can NOT be safely used on cats. Biospot works for about one month and can also be used as a mosquito repellant. Biospot has been known to temporarily turn the white hair on a dogs coat to yellow.
Biospot contains permethrins and IGR.
Proban and Prospot. The Proban (cythioate) and Prospot (Fenthion) products are also for use on dogs only and they are very popular. Proban and Prospot are actually absorbed in the dog’s bloodstream, poisoning any fleas that bite the dog. The fact that these products are poisonous to fleas combined with the fact that you are actually allowing this poison to be absorbed in the dog’s blood stream, may be cause for concern. There are no published (or known?) side effects. Another factor to consider about these last two products is that they do not repel fleas, they will only work if a flea bites the dog — if the dog has a flea allergy this would not be the product of choice.
It's often difficult to tell the difference between flea bites and bed bug bites; when you see the itchy red spots on your body and freak out about them, and after you overcome the initial desire to scratch, how do you know which of these insects has infested your home? You certainly should know, in order to properly fight against the infestation. Let's look at some common traits of both, and see if you can define your enemy more easily.
Fleas will come to your home thanks to your pet, or thanks to your friend's pet (you can freely use this as an excuse to get rid of unwanted "friends"). They hide in the pet's fur or in your carpet, so the flea bites will usually be located on your feet and around your ankles, or on your arms and elbows (if they jump on to you while you're holding your pet). The bite looks like a small red dot, sometimes surrounded by a halo of redness. They may cause infection, especially if you scratch a lot, but even if you don't, fleas can be vectors for other diseases, so if you see anything unusual happening with the bitten area, go see your doctor.
Bed bug bites
Bed bug bites are often mistaken for mosquito bites. They happen during the night, because bed bugs are mostly nocturnal insects, so if you wake up in the morning and discover reddish spots on your body, it's probably bed bugs. They are bigger than fleas, and you can spot them more easily. Bed bug bites are often multiple, and not limited to one part of your body: you can easily discover them on your arms, legs, belly, back - and very inconveniently, on your head (the forehead is their favorite target). They can often be found in the hotel rooms, and apparently, this little trick will help you discover whether there are bed bugs in your bed: put a bar of soap on the sheet, and wait to see if anything happens.
So, what are the main differences?
You can't be sure which one has bitten you, because they can look very much alike. You can however make an educated guess:
- Bed bug bites look like mosquito bites, and are grouped in clusters. Sometimes flea bites can be grouped in rows of two or three, but if it's more than that, it's definitely the first kind.
- Flea bites will be grouped around your ankles and on your forearms, bed bugs can bite anywhere on your body.
- If you got bitten during the night, it's probably bed bugs. Also, if you don't have pets in your home, if you haven't had friends with pets coming over, or if you're staying in a hotel room, it's them again.
- Both kinds are itchy, and you can use some ice, calamine lotion or alcohol to reduce the itching; if all is well and you don't scratch too hard (ideally not scratch at all), they will disappear by themselves within several days. However, while bed bug bites aren't dangerous, flea bites can cause severe allergic reaction, or can transmit a disease. Not to alarm you, but fleas are known as vectors for tapeworms, murine typhus and, in some parts of the world, for bubonic plague, so it's best to pay a visit to your physician if the skin around the bitten place starts acting funny.
Hope this helped a bit!
My dogs has fleas, and I am as embarrassed as a school nurse who's child has been sent home from school with head lice! As a dog groomer and enthusiast, it would seem I am horribly neglectful for allowing such a thing to happen. I'm one of those diligent groomers that dispenses advice on preventing flea infestations. So how could such a thing happen to me?
Well, for those of you who have witnessed the agony of a dog infested with fleas knows that all a poor dog can do is lick, bite, scratch and chase his butt in circles to defend himself from these pesky creatures. I have been using a spot on topical for years. I was very proud of my flea-free record until my Schnauzer Tilde began biting herself raw in some spots. Befuddled by this sudden "condition" she developed I raced her to the vet in a panic. "Does she have any fleas?" he asked, in that calm, clinical doctor voice. "No, I checked, and haven't seen any," I replied, while thinking that he knows something that I haven't a clue about. He rolled her over on her back to examine her belly, and low and behold, there was one lone flea running across her belly. That one flea was all it took to send her into an allergic response that drove her to bite herself down to the skin!
I have an awesome vet, and he gave me the lowdown on flea prevention, which I am sharing, in part, with you. I also did further investigation of the pesticides I had been using and the clinical results*. So here's my advice to all of you wondering what to do to prevent fleas.
- Understand that there is no such thing as prevention. I don't know why they use the term, because in reality there is no such thing. Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and worms are all around, and a force of nature. Your dog will is going to come in contact with fleas at one point or another in its lifetime, so it's really about how you manage them. Control is the key to living with fleas.
- Learn about parasites. The more you know, the more equipped you are to deal with them. Just knowing when they are the most active, and the kinds of natural and man-made pesticides available to deal with them will aide you in keeping them in check.
- Learn whether your breed of dog is susceptible to reactions from the pesticides on the market. I have seen dogs loose the hair around their neck from some flea collars, and others go into a anaphylactic shock from an allergic reaction to certain ingredients of a spot-on treatment.
- Choose a treatment program that you will stick to. Take me for example. I really don't like any sort of collar for the reason stated above. As a dog collar designer, I also don't think these collars are very attractive, so I opted for the spot-ons. Yes, they are more expensive, a little messy, and must be applied with care as you are handling a pesticide chemical. But when Tilde developed her flea dermatitis, I had to move on to Comfortis, a pill application with a higher effectiveness rate (and higher price tag) than a spot-on. And you need to order ample supply so you don't run out (as I didn't do - lesson learned).Which leads me to the next point...
- Have a back up plan. Sometimes the flea will prevail, and you will need immediate treatment. There are are few options, and most are 100% effective. A flea bath, for example, is one of the most effective ways to rid a dog immediately of fleas. You can get both natural and chemical versions. Capstar, and oral pill, is another option. It begins working immediately. Just remember to follow up with your control plan right away, as these methods do not prevent new fleas from appearing or larvae (eggs left behind) from hatching. If you don't have a back up plan, that's when things get out of control.
- Never let your guard down. Unfortunately, that's what I did. Whatever method of control you use, stick to the regimen. I let my dog's monthly spot-on treatment slide about a week or two. As most topical treatments have an effectiveness rate of about 70%, once you get past the recommended 30 day treatment cycle, the effectiveness drops to as low as 20%, That's as good as no protection at all.
- Be mindful of the residual effects of fleas. They will bite, and your dogs will react. Even when protected they can be bitten, and they will bite and itch, particularly their rear and nose, as these are the most common points of contact. If the reaction persists, then something may not be working with your control program. Sometimes it's just a reaction to a bite (think of your own reaction to mosquitoes or ticks), so have some skin remedies on hand to ease them of this, as flea control products do not resolve allergic responses.
Remember, it's all about control, and taking these steps will put you in the control instead of the flea - bringing peace of mind to you, and bodily peace to your dog!
* Small Animal Dermatology, George H. Muller, Robert Warren Kirk, Danny W. Scott, Craig E. Griffin
How to Tell the Difference Between Flea Bites and Bed Bug Bites
In any flea control efforts you must eliminate and treat fleas in the environment (both indoors and outdoors) and from the animal AND these efforts must be done concurrently to be effective. There is a lot of inaccurate information circulating around the Internet so I thought I would get into some of the better natural flea treatment alternatives and one of the best is cedar or cedarwood.
Many flea treatment alternative remedies are actually repellents. This means that they won't actually kill the fleas (or insects) but instead keep them away from pets and out of the environment. Not too long ago folk medicine and old fashioned home remedies actually used a lot of common sense and products found from right within the household (or garden) to effectively get rid of fleas.
Growing up, I remember the soothing smell of cedar chests, the fresh scent of the cedar chips in the morning dew out in the garden, and was amazed at how many closets were made of cedar to repel moths. Now I loved the smell, but the reason cedar was used so frequently is that cedarwood acts as a great deterrent and repellent for many different types of insects.
In the middle ages, the bubonic plague was being spread by fleas so cedarwood was burned to fumigate the streets and homes to eliminate the ecto-parasites. In more contemporary times, cedarwood oil was officially registered as a pesticide in the United States in 1960. It was approved for repelling moths and for use as a pet tag (or collar) and a liquid that could be sprayed on animal bedding.
Cedarwood oils come from trees in the botanical family Cupressaceae (true cedars, junipers, and cypresses) and in the United States the cedarwood oil is harvested four different sources:
- Juniperus virginiana (Eastern red cedar or Virginia cedar),
- Juniperus ashei or Juniperus mexicana (Texas cedar),
- and Thuja plicata (Western red cedar).
However, the Chemical Abstract Service registry number also applies to:
- Chinese cedarwood oil (Cupressus funebris),
- Kenyan or East African cedarwood oil (Juniperus procea),
- and Moroccan or Atlas cedarwood oil (Cedrus atlantica).
Since its registration, cedarwood is considered to be a great alternative for less toxic flea control in the garden, the home, the laundry, and around pets. For example, when used in the garden with other biological aides, such as parasitic nematodes, cedar chips can help get rid of fleas before they can spread and enter into your home.
Within the household, many people use cedar shavings inside pet beds. For use on animals, there are commercial cedar pet shampoos, cedar pet flea repellent sprays (such as LiquidNet), and a whole company (CedarCide) dedicated to creating cedar products to thwart fleas and other insects.
Safer uses take place in the environment instead of on the animal--unless the product is labeled as safe for pets. Many cedar flea home remedy tips exist such as:
Add drops of cedar oil to their steam cleaner or floor cleaning solutions so that the cedar essence pleasantly permeates their home while adding to other flea control strategies.
Linen & Fabric Sprays
Add a few drops of cedarwood oil to at least two cups of water and place into a spray bottle and to spritz clothing and sheets (or other bedding). You can even add a little to dryer softener sheets.
Cedarwood Blocks, Cedarwood Hangers & Cedarwood Sachets
Used in closets and around the home these products can help keep insects at bay and can be placed almost anywhere.
Finally, when using any aromatic herb or essential oil on pets always check with your veterinarian--because many natural products can be toxic to pets. Don't forget that since our sense of smell is not as astute as our pets, use any aromatic with a bit of restraint.