Walk down any street and one is likely to see a dog busy scratching or chewing. Fleas are most likely the culprit causing so much distress. But, fleas cause more than distress. Flea ridden puppies can actually become anemic! Many dogs build up an allergy to the saliva and only one flea bite can send them in to frenzies of chewing often resulting in “hot spots” – raw patches of skin with secondary infections. It is said that the itch can become so bad dogs have chewed holes in their legs and tails - and worse.
Traditionally people race to the pesticides (flea collars, spot-ons, shampoos, etc.) to give their dogs relief from the bothersome pests and, frankly, that is necessary, but, there are other actions to take also. Please note that when you put a pesticide permeated collar on a dog and you stroke that dog you are being exposed to those pesticides! .Let’s look at some additional actions you can take.
It may surprise some but the very first place to begin controlling parasites – not just fleas! – is with the immune system. The healthier a dog (or cat!) is, the better the immune system, the more likely she can resist being attacked by these dreadful critters. Diet plays a huge part here.
Feed what your dog is meant to eat – fresh meat and RAW bones - other things, too, but grains or other forms of carbohydrates are NOT needed nor advised. Totally avoid cheap commercial products which are most likely to contain colorings, sugar, chemical preservatives and most certainly no high quality sources of meat.* It is said that these ingredients (colorings, chemical preservatives, etc.) contain toxins which are secreted, at least in part, through the hair follicles and can exacerbate skin problems including flea bite dermatitis.
The supplement I recommend above all others is omega 3s from salmon oil. Salmon oil is full of essential fatty acids that promote healthy hair and skin. A clove of fresh garlic added to your dog’s diet at least several times a week builds up the immune system and is also considered to be great for parasite control! Garlic does a lot more, incidentally. (Use caution with cats! They are more susceptible to a form of anemia caused by damage to red blood cells associated with garlic and onions. Try brewer’s yeast instead.)
Groom your dog (and cat!) frequently. Dead hair and mats give fleas a lovely home in which to hide and breed. Dogs are at a serious disadvantage in their attempts to kill those critters buried deep in a mat.*** Daily grooming is probably ideal with long haired dogs but grooming at least every other day when dealing with any fleas is a must. Get a flea comb and use it. Flea combs are useful only for adult fleas, of course. Give special attention to under the arms, groin area, and base of the tail.
Regular bathing if you build up lots of lather and leave it on for 10 minutes minimum will kill fleas – it smothers them. First make a ring of lather around your dog’s neck so fleas do not all run to high ground. Then progress so that the entire body of the dog is covered in lather of a high quality organic canine shampoo - no chemicals, please! Flea-repelling shampoos will contain oils such as lavender, rosemary, tea tree, mint and citrus.
Since fleas and their various life forms do not spend all their time on dogs you must treat the environment. Vacuum**anything that can be reached by your vacuum cleaner daily, wash anything that can be laundered at least weekly and sprinkle cedar shavings, lavender seeds or eucalyptus leaves in and around areas frequented by the dog.
Unprocessed diatomaceous earth (not the pool type) can be sprinkled in cracks, corners of floors and even on carpets to kill fleas. Keep gardens free of flea breeding grounds: accumulations of leaves, brush, cool shady areas – fleas do not like sun!
Keep in mind that when you resort to chemically based products your dog AND you are exposed to these chemicals. It may be a way to start to get control but please reread this article for the very best ways to have a flea free critter in your home.
*The protein count comes primarily from grains – dogs did not evolve to eat grains! Cats MUST have meat for health!!!!
**Good use (maybe the best?) of a flea collar is to cut off a piece of it, place in the vacuum cleaner bag and toss bag and the whole shebang.
***When dogs successfully kill fleas they often ingest fleas and they will very likely ingest tape worm eggs!!!! The presence of tape worms is indicated when one sees white rice like things around the anus.
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