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.
Treating Fleas on Dogs
Organic treatment options for fleas on dogs include dietary supplements, applying essential oils on the dog’s fur, and eliminating the fleas from the dog’s environment. Pet owners who wish to use organic treatments for fleas on their dog need to realize that these treatment options require plenty of commitment and diligence.
Dietary supplements in the dog’s diet may help to repel fleas away from the dog if they are present in the dog’s environment. These supplements include garlic (1/2 – 1 clove of garlic per 10 pounds in dog’s food every day), and yeast (1 teaspoon dietary yeast supplement per 10 pounds in dog’s food every day).
Essential oils may also be very effective at keeping fleas off of a dog’s skin. These essential oil applications may either be purchased over-the-counter or you can make your own oil repellent at home. Effective essential oil repellents include eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, lavender oil, and citronella oil.
Essential oils must always be diluted (with witch hazel or water) and should never be placed on the dog’s skin without dilution. At home solutions should not be used on puppies or older dogs as they may cause allergic skin reactions. Never use essential oils on pregnant dogs without consulting a veterinarian, and never use essential oils on nursing dogs.
In addition to repellents, organic treatments include removing fleas from the dog and its environment. A flea comb should be used daily to remove any fleas on the dog’s coat and skin (place the captured fleas in a bowl of hot soapy water to kill them instantly). The dog’s bedding should be washed in hot water and dried thoroughly, and the dog’s home should be vacuumed repeatedly (always dispose of the vacuum bag after vacuuming as fleas and flea eggs may survive in the bag).
Getting Rid of Fleas in Your Home
Methods used to eradicate fleas from your home depend on the severity of the infestation. Prescription topical treatments placed on the dog’s skin, professional pesticide services, and cleaning the dog’s environment may all be used to eradicate fleas.
Prescription topical treatments such as Frontline and Advantage are highly effective at removing all fleas from the dog’s environment in a short amount of time. As soon as a flea lands on the dog it dies, or fleas currently on the dog die with the application, and any new fleas that hatch and then land on the dog will die as well. Eventually, with continual once a month applications, no new fleas are available to lay eggs and the flea infestation is completely eliminated.
Light flea infestations may be eradicated by removing the fleas from the dog’s skin with a medicated shampoo or flea comb. Washing the dog’s bedding in hot water and thoroughly drying the bedding, vacuuming and cleaning the carpets on a continual basis, and cleaning and vacuuming any hard floors in the dog’s environment will help to remove fleas from the dog’s environment too.
In very severe cases where flea infestation is becoming a health hazard to the dog(s) in the home and people living in the home, professional pesticide services which use sprays or bombs, may be needed to completely eradicate fleas in the home.
Reducing any new introduction of fleas in the home will help to prevent any new infestations. Recently adopted animals should be treated for fleas before they enter the home, and pet owners should regularly check their pets for any signs of fleas to stay on top of new infestations.
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.