Fleas and Dogs Just Aren’t a Good Match

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I was visiting a friend recently, and had brought (with her permission) my adolescent dog Woody along for the ride. Her (quite elderly) mother asked me, as we entered the home, “Does he have fleas?” I assured her he does not, but the brief exchange did bring up memories.

Years ago, I had a Border Collie, Rupert, who was incredibly hypersensitized to flea bites. I’ve met dogs with more severe flea allergies, but I can’t imagine living with one. I, too, grilled my friends at the front door about their dogs’ flea-bearing status. If they professed not to know, or were avowed non-users of flea-control products, they could forget coming into MY house. We could go for a walk together instead! I had to protect Rupert at all costs.

I recommend that everyone use the spot-on and other flea control products with care. Unless you live in an area that’s infested, I wouldn’t use them every month; where I live now, I’m lucky enough to need them only once or twice a year in order to immediately put an end to any random appearance of fleas on any of my pets. But you can bet that I immediately declare war if I see a flea on any of my cats or dogs: everyone gets a spot-on, and I go on a rampage of vacuuming and floor washing, all the pet beds and blankets get washed – even the CARS get a thorough vacuuming. In the old days, I’d know if Rupert got ONE flea bite, because he’d start scratching and chewing all over, especially the spot where the bite occurred. He’d have an inflamed, runny sore within hours – and often, I’d have another nice vet bill within days. So, I was careful about bringing Rupert to places where there might be fleas (including friends’ houses!) and was stringent about the dogs who came to my house!

I did have a little flare-up of fleas a few months ago, when the Great Dane puppies I was fostering all went up for adoption. It took four days of viewing at my local shelter for all 11 to find homes. Each evening, I’d take the ones who hadn’t been adopted that day back home, so they could relax and play (and potty) outside, after a long day in the small concrete kennels. On one of those days, one (or some) of them picked up fleas; perhaps from a neighboring kennel? At any rate, all of a sudden, the remaining puppies were all scratching like mad, and when I turned them over to check their tummies, they were CRAWLING with tiny fleas! Yikes! They (and all my dogs) got a dose of Capstar (an oral medication that kills all the fleas that are one them at that moment), and a spot-on. A great house-cleaning commenced, and the flea riot was stopped in its tracks.

I followed this up with Seresto collars for all of my dogs – my first experience with these. (They are expensive in stores, but the prices are far better at online retailers. It might not matter if you have just one dog, but it’s a big chunk of change if you have several.) So far, so good; I haven’t spotted any fleas, and you can believe I’ve been looking. I want my dogs to be welcome anywhere I want them to go with me, and I don’t want to have to worry about them picking up unwelcome visitors from my friends’ homes, either.

This may make me sound like a shill for the pesticide companies, but my dogs have had far more health problems related to fleas than the flea-killing products. And I’ve never had much luck with the plethora of natural remedies out there.

How about you guys?

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