What Should I Do If My Dog Has Fleas?

In addition to the inconvenience and itch for Fido and you, fleas carry disease – a flea infestation is more than a nuisance, and immediate steps should be taken to rid your home and animals of these unwanted pests. Fleas can bring anemia and other serious blood disorders which can actually be fatal, especially to very young animals.

Once your house is infested, there’s no mistaking the presence of fleas, but in the early stages, how can you tell if your dog has fleas? If you notice him scratching and you’re not sure if fleas are the cause, use a flea comb on him right away and check for tiny black granules left behind on the comb – that’s flea poop. Time to nip this problem in the bud. If you’ve caught it early enough, a topical application of one of the excellent modern flea control products such as Advantage or Frontline should be enough to take care of the problem. Use only according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and never use products labeled for dogs on cats, or vice versa.

If the infestation has already moved into a more aggressive stage – and it will do so very quickly – you should first start with that flea comb (available at any pet store or from your vet)and comb carefully over the dog’s entire body. Keep a bowl of diluted bleach or dish soap water nearby and as you collect fleas on the comb, dunk them into the bowl. Dry the comb on a towel and repeat until you’ve gotten most of the fleas, or until Fido refuses any more combing, whichever comes first.

Next, it’s time for a bath. It isn’t necessary to use flea shampoo or a flea dip for this purpose; just a mild dog or baby shampoo will do the job. Read more here on grooming and bathing your dog. Finally, apply the topical flea control product (like Advantage or Frontline) to keep Fido comfortable and free of fleas.

Now that he’s all nice and clean, it’s time to do the same for your house and also your yard. Fleas breed unchecked in the grass, and if only the dog and the house are flea-free, Fido or you could still bring fleas indoors to breed if the outdoor infestation isn’t addressed.

First, the indoors: wash all bedding thoroughly. While the bedclothes are off, vacuum the mattress, especially in the crevices where eggs might hide, and then vacuum any favorite sofas, pillows or other upholstered areas where Fido likes to sit. Vacuum all your carpeting and area rugs thoroughly, and don’t forget to dispose of used vacuum bags – all those live fleas are still in the bag. If the infestation’s really severe, you’ll also need to steam-clean your carpeting. This should kill any remaining eggs the vacuuming might have missed.

If the infestation’s really bad, use a whole-house flea bomb. This is a toxic product that kills through the use of poison, so it’s critical to remove all food dishes and live animals during this process. Another option is to use a less toxic (to everybody except the fleas) product which acts as a desiccant rather than a poison, shriveling the fleas on contact. This very effective product, which comes from a company called FleaBusters, is usually applied to your whole house by a trained professional, but if you prefer to do the work yourself (be sure to wear a mask and use adequate ventilation – and keep all pets out of the house) you can buy the FleaBusters powder and apply it yourself according to the manufacturer’s instructions, for a fraction of the cost.

Finally, treat outdoor grassy areas with a non-toxic flea killing product made for use in yards where animals live. Consult with experts at your local garden center to find a product that’s both safe and effective for your needs.

Follow this dog flea control program thoroughly, indoors and out, and you’ll soon conquer even the most severe flea infestations, bringing relief to your pet, your home, your property and yourself.

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