Ah, the joys of bright days and cooler weather. This is one of the best times of the year for you and your pets to enjoy the outdoors with swimming, hiking, and playing in the park with a flying disc. But early autumn is also the height of flea season. Before you decide to keep your poor pooch locked indoors, here are some ways to keep him safe…
Keeping your lawn, bushes, and trees trimmed back will help control your home’s outdoor flea population. You can also use outdoor chemical treatments, but remember, these products are toxic and can have harmful effects if there’s accidental contact. (You may want to warn your neighbors before each yard application so they can protect themselves from incidental contact with the chemicals.)
You can easily devise a homemade (and non-toxic) flea trap, or purchase a ready made one at a hardware store. To make one at home, set a small dish of soapy water on the ground near a light source (using an attached night light or lamp) overnight. Attracted by the warmth and light, fleas will jump into the water and become trapped.
After cleaning your home, you can use sprays and/or foggers that will kill the adult fleas, as well as the larvae and eggs as they hatch. These products are available at your veterinarian’s office or pet supply store. Care must be taken when using these products, as they can be toxic to fish, birds, dog, cats and children. Read labels carefully and ask for advice from your veterinarian before attempting to use these products.
Fleas are notoriously difficult to get rid of, mostly because you have to continually clean your home as well treat your dog for infestations. To successfully eradicate fleas, you need to vacuum your home thoroughly and throw out the bag when you're done. And don’t forget to wash your dog’s bedding and clean his toys with warm, soapy water. Finally, vacuum your car. Fleas love to hide in dark, warm places.
Flea powders and sprays are also relatively inexpensive, and should also be used cautiously. These products can cause irritation to sensitive, unprotected parts of the body in both people and their pets. Make sure to protect the mouth and eyes, and take care that neither you nor your pet breathe this treatment in.
Powders and sprays require more frequent reapplication than spot-on medications.
Unlike shampoo treatments, dips are diluted with water, topically applied, and left on. These chemical products can be very potent, and misuse can lead to a potentially toxic reaction. Prior to using flea dips on your dog, make sure to read the instructions and carefully follow them according to your dog’s size, weight and age. Do not use on pregnant, nursing or young pets less than four months old.
Another inexpensive flea control option is to fit your dog with a dog collar. The efficacy of flea collars can depend on several factors, like how bad the infestation is in your immediate area. Flea collars should be worn next to the skin. Put two fingers under the collar to prevent securing it on too tightly. Also, keep an eye out for scratching around the collar; some dogs are extremely sensitive to the chemicals.
Sometimes the best first line of defense in guarding your dog against fleas is bathing him with medicated flea shampoos. It is inexpensive, and one of the most common ways people treat and protect their pets against parasitic infections. Flea shampoos don’t provide long-lasting protection, so at the height of flea season, it is generally recommended to use the shampoo every two weeks.
Using oral medications along with spot-on treatments will help control a serious flea infestation. Flea control pills disrupt the life cycle of fleas, but do not kill adult fleas on contact. But giving your dog pills (usually once a month) is a good choice for people who have small children in the home. There is a significant decrease in exposing children to potentially irritating topical treatments.
Despite the name, this is a very effective way to protect your pet. The applied drops create a full body water-repellent shield that won’t wash off, even during swimming or playing in the rain. Spot-on medication can also stop the active progress of the flea life cycle. Select a treatment based on your dog’s size, weight and age — too little won’t work, and too much can potentially poison your pet.