Anybody who’s suffered from a bad flea infestation knows how annoying Flea Bites can be. Not only do you have to watch your pet suffer and scratch at their fleas, but your bites can be quite horrible as well. The reason flea bites itch is that flea saliva contains an anti-coagulant that causes an allergic reaction and results in the small, itchy bump that you see.
The best thing you can do for flea bites is not scratch them, obviously. This is always more easily said than done, but the more you can do to not scratch, the better. However, there are a few tips to reduce how much the bites itch.
Among the most popular methods to relieve itching are calamine lotion, tea tree oil, vinegar and rubbing alcohol. Ice can also work temporarily by numbing the area of the bite. You might also try hand-sanitizer, anti-septic cream and sunburn remedies.
Obviously, the best thing to do as a long-term solution is get rid of the fleas themselves. This is not always easy to do, but if you follow some fairly simple steps, and stay with a careful and concerted program, you can succeed.
The first step is to kill the fleas on your pet. There are many topical pet flea treatments available, but probably the most popular is Frontline. Frontline comes in small, single-dose vials that are applied between the pets shoulder blades. The treatment then disperses out through the animal’s hair follicles and oil glands, and should provide protection for one month.
The next step is to get rid of the fleas in your home. This can be difficult to do with a serious infestation, but following a careful plan is the key. First, wash everything you can that might be infested with fleas, including pet bedding, cushions, carpets, etc. Throw them in the washing machine and wash with hot water and detergent.
The best thing you can do for fleas in your home is vacuuming. Vacuum your carpets and floors as much as possible, every day if you can, but at least three days a week. You can also buy some chemical sprays and foggers if you have a bad infestation. If you do this, make sure you buy a product that contains both an insecticide, such as pyrethrin, as well as an insect growth regulator (IGR) such as methoprene. This ensures that the spray will kill both adult fleas, as well as eggs, larva and pupae.
The key to this simple program is to continue to treat both your home and pet long past the time the fleas seem to be gone. If your pet stops scratching, still treat them with Frontline. If your home seems fine, don’t stop the frequent vacuuming. Fleas can be quite tenacious and hide out as eggs and larva, only to surprise you with a new infestation just when you think you’re in the clear.
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
Flea Control Secrets - Natural Flea Remedy - Cedarwood
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!