Fleas and ticks are not only annoying but can cause illness in dogs and cats.
Worms from fleas
Tapeworms develop inside adult fleas. Dogs or cats ingest the fleas while grooming themselves, and in turn are infected with the adult tapeworms. Tapeworms do not usually cause any symptoms and are not harmful unless the infestation is severe.
Animals who are allergic to fleas have a harder time. What they are actually allergic to is the saliva of fleas. It only takes one bite to create an allergic response. The severe itching that the bite causes sets off a chain of symptoms.
They will often lose patches of hair. The constant scratching and biting results in "hot spots", or open sores, which can lead to secondary infections. Severe flea infestations can even cause anemia.
A soothing skin spray, such as the one from Animal''s Apawthacary, can help relieve the irritation and itching. A child''s dose of antihistimines sometimes also helps, or there are herbal alternatives.
Talk about ticks
Ticks are also a problem in the spring and summer, not only for dogs but for humans as well.
The Brown Dog Tick can complete its entire life cycle indoors. The black-legged or deer tick can cause Lyme disease, but they must be on the host for 24 hours to infect.
To prevent infection and infestation, inspect your dog whenever you have hiked in tall grass or wooded areas where ticks may be present. If you see a tick, remove it carefully with a tweezers. Pull slowly and steadily. If the head or mouthparts are left behind they can cause infection.
It may be best to have the tick removed by a vet, as they can identify the species at the same time.
Prevention easier than elimination
Dealing with fleas is made simpler if you work to prevent them in the first place.
Since eggs and larvae make up about eighty percent of the flea population in the house, it makes sense to prevent eggs from hatching and larvae from maturing.
Frequent vacuuming will help get rid of eggs and larva, as well as the dust and organic matter on which they feed. Destroy the bags so the eggs can''t hatch and reinfest your carpets.
Pay close attention to dark, damp areas where fleas love to hide, and to the areas around your pet''s bed where they will be most abundant.
You can treat carpets and crevices with boric acid or diatomaceous earth to kill flea larvae and eggs. There are professional services that will do this for you if you prefer.
Keeping your lawn cut short eliminates some of the hiding places for fleas. Letting it go dry in summer will not only conserve water, but will keep the flea population down as well.
Wash all pet bedding in hot water. If the bedding cannot be washed, put it in a hot dryer for twenty minutes.
I prefer to use natural methods to both kill and prevent fleas, rather than harsh chemicals and insecticides.
Topical flea prevention medications such as Frontline and Advantage have been known to cause severe reactions and even death in both dogs and cats. If you do choose to use these medications, be sure to get them from your vet and not over the counter. Try to use them less often than once a month, and in lower dosages.
Natural flea repellents made from essential oils can be very effective, but they must be reapplied often. The best places to apply them are the dog''s legs and near the base of the tail, as these are the places fleas usually attack first.
Cats are very sensitive to essential oils, especially pennyroyal and d-limonene, two ingredients often found in herbal repellents. If you need to use something on your cat, I would further dilute these products in water or olive oil.
Grooming for flea control
Frequent combing of the animals will enable you to control the flea population while it is small. Combing is also the best way to monitor the level of infestation.
If the animal is severely infested, it will probably require bathing and perhaps more drastic measures.
Flea shampoos are not really necessary, any soap will drown the fleas, but Only Natural Pet''s Flea Insect Repellant Shampoo contains essential oils to help repel fleas and tick.
If you don''t use a special conditioner, a homemade lemon rinse will help kill any fleas that are left behind, as well as prevent new ones from hanging around. Make the rinse by steeping a whole lemon, cut up, in one pint of boiling water. Steep eight hours or overnight, then strain. Spray or pour over the dog and do not rinse it off.
The very best prevention is a healthy animal, and the easiest way to achieve optimum health is through a good quality diet. Include some fish oil for healthy skin and coat.
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