Treatment and Prognosis for Fleas in Dogs
While prevention is the best cure for fleas, quick treatment of flea-related medical conditions is the next best thing. There are many ways to control flea populations. The affected dog and all other animals in the household should be treated. A flea comb can be used to remove fleas, especially from short-haired dogs and cats. The fleas should be killed immediately; this can be accomplished by putting them into a sealable container with a bit of liquid detergent or rubbing alcohol. Topical on-spot liquids, foams, shampoos, dips, powders, dusts, sprays and collars are available to treat dogs infested with fleas. Some of these products only kill adult fleas, while others kill their larvae and/or prevent their eggs from maturing and hatching. Some flea treatments also control other parasites, such as lice, mites, ticks, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and/or heartworms. Steroids and antihistamines may be prescribed to help relieve the itchiness and other bothersome symptoms of flea infestation.
One of the most important aspects of flea control is to eliminate the reservoir of fleas that are not on a dog but instead are living and maturing in the house and yard. Thorough mechanical cleaning of all floor surfaces by sweeping, mopping and/or vacuuming is a good place to start. Insecticidal carpet shampoos, sprays, powders and foggers are widely available over-the-counter. Professional exterminators offer a number of services to eliminate fleas and may be especially appropriate in cases of heavy infestation. The yard should be treated as well, including any kennels, runs, pens, dog houses and preferred pet napping spots.
Owners should consult with their pet’s veterinarian before using flea-control products, because they can vary widely in safety, method of action and effectiveness. For example, some products should not be used on puppies under a certain age, on pregnant bitches or on specific breeds, depending upon their particular formulations. Some flea control products are toxic if ingested in large amounts, which can happen when a dog licks or chews at its fur after the products are applied. Other flea treatments are not recommended for use in homes with young children.
The outlook for most dogs with fleas is good to very good, if effective flea control is established and maintained. This requires diligence, patience and tenacity on the part of owners.