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posted: 5/29/2014 10:39 AM

A scratching dog may mean an infestation of fleas

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  • Baby Cakes, a 6-year-old, female Chihuahua, weighs in at 11 pounds.

      Baby Cakes, a 6-year-old, female Chihuahua, weighs in at 11 pounds.
    Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

  • Simon is a Labrador retriever mix who is about 8 months old. He is 54 pounds of pure beauty.

      Simon is a Labrador retriever mix who is about 8 months old. He is 54 pounds of pure beauty.
    Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

  • Little Tessa is 10 weeks old. She is a Lab mix and weighs about eight pounds.

      Little Tessa is 10 weeks old. She is a Lab mix and weighs about eight pounds.
    Courtesy of The Buddy Foundation

 
By Ellaine Kiriluk

Your dog has been scratching and biting himself. You use that little comb with tiny teeth and find little black spots. Flea season has arrived.

The HSUS, AVMA and veterinarypartner.com offer information in efforts to protect our animals from fleas and ticks. Adult fleas are dark brown and are the size of a sesame seed.

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Dr. Carol S. Foil, DVM, MS, Diplomte A.C.V. VeterinaryPartner.com, notes flea allergy dermatis is the most common skin disease of dogs and cats. Adult fleas cause the clinical signs on our animals, but the majority of the flea population, eggs, larvae and pupae are found off the animal and are in and around the house.

Our animals can pick up fleas wherever there is an infestation, usually in areas frequented by other dogs and cats. The life cycle of the flea is anywhere from 12 days to six months, with the adult flea spending virtually all of its time on our pets.

Female fleas begin laying eggs within 24 hours of selecting our pet as a host, producing 50 eggs each day. The eggs fall off our pet onto the furniture, including our dog's bed, the flooring, or anywhere he goes.

"Tiny, wormlike larvae hatch from the eggs and burrow into carpets, under furniture, or into soil before spinning into a cocoon. The cocooned flea pupae can lie dormant (inactive) for weeks before emerging as adults that are ready to infest (or reinfest) your pet," notes the AVMA.

We may not notice the flea problem until their number increases to the amount where our animal is uncomfortable. Signs of flea problems range from mild redness to severe scratching that can lead to open sores and skin infections. These skin infections can be described as "hot spots." The fleas themselves may not be seen, but the flea dirt or the black droppings are visible.

Controlling the fleas in your pet's living environment is as important as treating them on him. Since most of the flea's life cycle is spent off him, treating only your pet won't eliminate the problem. In addition to killing the adult flea, the flea eggs, larvae and pupae also have to be eliminated.

If not, your pet will become reinfested when these fleas become adults and the cycle starts all over again.

So, in addition to treating the fleas on your pet, the flea population in your house must be reduced by thoroughly cleaning your pet's sleeping area, vacuuming your floors and your furniture.

The HSUS suggests treating the inside of your house with a flea "bomb" is the most effective treatment. This requires the removal of birds and fish, with the fumes also requiring you to stay out of your home for a number of hours.

Treatment to get rid of the fleas then includes combing your pet regularly with a flea comb, vacuuming frequently, washing his bedding weekly, bathing him with a pesticide-free pet shampoo and mowing areas of the lawn where he spends time.

It may also be necessary to treat the outside of your home with a flea/tick killer on the grass and soil.

The HSUS suggests the following Flea and Tick reminders:

• Avoid using OP-based products and products with carbamates and pyrethroids.

• Never use flea and tick products designed for dogs on cats or vice versa.

• Always be certain of your pet's weight before purchase to ensure proper dosage.

• Never apply pesticides to very young, elderly, pregnant or sick animals unless directed to do so by a veterinarian.

• Always read the ingredients and warnings and follow all instructions on the package.

Before you use any flea and tick product on your pet, it is critical to read their labels and consult with your veterinarian, as they may contain ingredients that could harm your pet and people. Monthly topical flea treatments are available through your veterinarian.

We need to protect our animals from parasites like fleas and ticks. It's part of responsible pet ownership. Our treatment needs to be responsible as well. In my experience, the first and best step for flea control and treatment is to consult your veterinarian.

• The Buddy Foundation is a nonprofit (501c3), all-volunteer, no-kill animal shelter dedicated to the welfare of stray, abused and abandoned cats and dogs. For more information, call (847) 290-5806 or visit www.thebuddyfoundation.org.

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