Have an itch you just can’t seem to sufficiently scratch? It might be fleas. One of the most common pets to affect dog owners all across the United States, flea infestations can quickly become out of control if you don’t manage to nip them in the bud quickly. As with most illnesses, prevention is much easier than treatment.
But what if prevention isn’t an option? Maybe you’ve discovered that you’re already in the (unwanted) company of an entire congregation of jumping, biting little bugs. What then?
Finding a safe, reliable treatment for fleas isn’t always easy. Questionable drug store and supermarket products may cause serious harm to your dog, especially if used incorrectly. Others simply aren’t effective and are a waste of money. Where do you start, and how can you know the difference? From prescription medications to all-natural solutions, we break down the many effective tools at your disposal so you can safely nip those nibblers in the bud for good.
Use Dawn Dish Soap
You’ve just discovered an infestation on your dog, or maybe you took in a stray. He’s loaded with fleas and getting to the vet isn’t an option, at least not for a couple of days. You need to do something to cut back on the numbers, but what?
Surprisingly, the answer may be as close as your kitchen sink!
Dawn dish soap won’t cure fleas, but a good, long bath and sudsing may very well cut back on their numbers and help to manage your dog’s symptoms until you can find another solution. This simple product is often used to treat animals who are caught in oil spills, so it’s tested to be mostly safe for use on a wide variety of animals.
How Dawn works is by reducing the surface tension of water; instead of floating and just clinging back onto your dog, the fleas drown. FleaScience.com also reports that Dawn dish soap can break down a flea’s natural repellency to water. In short, it’s an excellent “in a pinch” treatment, but isn’t a long-term solution.
There is one downside to using Dawn Dish soap – it’s a degreaser, and degreasers can strip oils away from the skin. If you find your dog’s skin becomes itchy, rough, or dry after this treatment, don’t repeat it. Move on to one of the other steps instead. It’s also best to make this treatment infrequent for the same reason.
Use a Flea Comb
This is the simplest of solutions, but unfortunately, it’s not a permanent solution either. Using a flea comb to separate fleas from your dog will certainly produce results, but you’ll need to either drown the fleas you find in dish soap or pop them once you’ve captured them. This can be a painstaking process and may even take hours, especially if your pup is heavily infested. Unfortunately, flea combs do very little for eggs, so it can seem like you’ve conquered the problem only to have another infestation pop up in a couple of weeks.
For best results, combine the flea comb with the dawn dish soap bath. Comb your dog out while he is still wet and sudsed up. Keep a bowl of Dawn beside you and drop the fleas into it along with the comb; they can’t escape from its viscosity and should remain in the bowl.
Use Prescription Spot Treatments
If you’re unsure about using spot treatments due to reports of widespread harm, particularly with certain companies, understand that the majority of these reports come from pet owners who skip the vet and purchase their medications in the grocery store or online. These products are notoriously mispackaged, unreliable, and prone to deterioration during storage. Some may even be toxic to humans or other pets.
Worse still is the fact that it is extremely easy to miscalculate the dose, and if you purchase online, the risk of getting counterfeit medication or an overdose is fairly high. Never assume that just because a product is available in-store, it’s safe. Always verify it with your vet first.
So what’s so much better about vet prescription products like Advantage or Revolution? Well, they’re better regulated for one. There’s no need to worry about inconsistent ratios or overdoses because all vials contain the same concentration of medication, just a different amount of product. When you use prescription spot treatments correctly, the actual risk of an allergy or reaction is quite low.
Furthermore, your vet can weigh your canine friend at the office and calculate the exact dose needed to get rid of fleas without causing side effects or harm. It’s also the perfect time to check for worms – something that’s extremely common in dogs who have fleas.
Try Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.), often sold in food supplement stores or by pool management companies, is a dusty substance made up of mostly fossilized algae. Though the food-safe version isn’t harmful to humans (in fact, some humans even ingest it to treat intestinal parasites) or pets, it is incredibly harmful to most insects. Microscopic razor-sharp edges won’t harm you or your dog but will shred a flea’s carapace, causing it to die off if it crawls across the D.E. while gallivanting around on your dog.
There are two main ways to use D.E. in your home. First, you can sprinkle it down onto carpets and other high-flea locations. You can also sprinkle it throughout your yard or around the exterior of your home to prevent fleas, ants, and just about any other crawling critter, too.
You can also safely apply D.E. to your dog’s coat in most situations. The one caveat is that it is incredibly dusty, so it probably isn’t suitable for pups with breathing issues or asthma. Just rub it through his coat during a flea combing process, taking care to avoid any mucosal areas like the mouth, genitals or ears as you go. Then, use a shed brush to pull the excess D.E. out. Repeat as often as is needed.
Fleas might be the bane of your existence (and most certainly your dog’s existence), but they don’t have to be the annoying itch that lasts for months. Start by treating your dog, and then treat your home and yard if possible. Then, use a good spot treatment or begin a long-term management protocol to keep them from coming back. Have kitties or other pets in the home? Don’t forget to treat them, too – otherwise, the fleas will just migrate over and then back again.Tags: fleas and ticks