Fleas

The flea is a super survivor, thick skinned in all senses of the word. Walk on a flea and it will hop away. Immerse a flea in water and it will come up spluttering. Fingernail crushing is an effective extermination method if you can catch the blighters.

Over the years the flea has become resistant to a whole range of insecticides so they are now even tougher customers. I wager that the flea, like the cockroach, will survive the bomb and inherit the earth!

There are more than 2000 species of flea and, although each type of animal has its own corresponding type of flea, fleas are not always totally host - specific. While cats might be fussy feeders, the cat flea is by no means fussy and will feed on a variety of species including dogs and humans.

There is still a definite social stigma attached to having fleas. Yet it is an inescapable fact of life, especially in warm, humid climates. If a dog is scratching it is worth checking its coat for fleas just in case. This is easier said than done because fleas are laterally compressed, which means they can shoot through a forest of dog hairs at a mighty speed. If the dog has a double coat they are even harder to see.

A good trick to use to test for fleas is to ruffle the hair on the dog's back causing the fleas to make a hasty retreat to the underside of the dog. Then, if you roll the dog over, the fleas should be caught out in the open, running across the bare tummy.

Fleas eat blood. Young pups are particularly at risk from fleas as they can die from flea anaemia. Later in life, dogs can develop an allergy to the saliva of its fleas and this can sometimes linger for weeks after the last flea has bitten the dust.

The little black specks that you sometimes see in your dogs coat are not flea eggs. When a flea feeds on the host it ingests blood and produces flea faeces consisting of dried, partially digested blood. This is the ‘flea dirt’ that you are seeing. That is why when you bath a dog with a lot of these little black specks on it, the water goes reddish-brown. In severe cases the water will actually turn pinkish-red.

 

A Flea’s Life Cycle

The tiny fleas on your dog are newly emerged fleas from the environment. Once on the pet, the fleas will begin feeding within seconds and mating occurs within the first 24 hours. Did you know a female flea increases her body weight by 40% in the first hour? The eggs are white, oval, about 0.5mm in size and easily visible to the naked eye, looking like grains of salt. They are laid on the pet and then drop off into the environment.

The fleas hatch out into larvae, like tiny fly maggots, and move away from light, in the direction of gravity and moisture. They find their way deep into the carpet pile, cracks and crevices between floorboards or under leafy/sandy debris in the garden. Larvae feed on flea dirt and develop into tiny pupae in cocoons. At this stage they can lie dormant in floor cracks, grass and yard, carpets and dog's bedding, where they can remain for up to 6 months, until weather conditions are favourable for hatching a new generation of fleas.

The whole life cycle of the flea can take a matter of as little as 14 days or it can take months and months if conditions are not right. Have you ever walked into a house after a holiday when the place has lain empty to suddenly find an infestation of fleas? The vibrations of your feet can be enough to hatch the pupae into a new generation of adult fleas, which immediately leap onto your legs for a feed! A newly emerged flea can survive several days before eating but once on a host it feeds constantly and rarely moves from pet to pet.

 

Flea Control in the Environment

It is important to understand that the adult fleas you see on your pet are the tip of the iceberg, making up only 5% of the problem. The remaining 95% of the problem is in the environment in the form of eggs, larvae and pupae.

Remember that prevention is better than cure so even though you may not think that your house or yard has fleas it does not hurt to have the area treated for fleas. You cannot expect to have a dog or its environment treated once and expect to be completely rid of fleas. It is an ongoing concern and once you have an infestation it may take some time to eradicate the problem.

When dogs who are obviously suffering from flea allergy are seen, a high percentage of owners say that they de-flea their dog every night and catch about 20 fleas in a comb. It takes only one to cause an allergy. A pet acts as a vacuum cleaner for all the fleas in the environment. Kill a flea on the animal and there can be plenty more to take its place.

It seems obvious that unless you tackle the dog's surroundings, treating the dog for fleas is not going to tackle the whole problem.

Many dog owners have a misconception about fleas and it is sometimes hard for them to realise they need to treat the pet’s environment as well. It is up to us to educate them.

A lot of clients will say `I've got ground fleas coming up out of the dirt, so there's nothing I can do.' The fleas on the dog are breeding, dropping eggs into the yard/household which are developing into larvae, then pupae, giving rise to new adults to jump on to the dog. Solution - Treat the PETS ENVIRONMENT as well as the pet.

Vacuuming helps to remove some life stages in the environment and the vibrations caused by the machine may also stimulate fleas to emerge from their pupae and be sucked up by the vacuum cleaner. Your dog's bedding should also be washed regularly, preferably every time your dog has its bath. Put rugs/carpets and bedding in direct sunlight as this helps to kill larvae. The surroundings can be sprayed by a professional pest controller, or you can usually purchase something appropriate from your local vet or produce store. The inside of your home should also be done, you can again use a professional or you can purchase flea bombs from your local produce or vet or supermarket. Make sure that you purchase the flea bomb which has a flea growth regulator in it. Just be sure to follow the directions. Lock your dog away from any dirt areas and place Lime or Dolomite on the dirt.

 

Dealing With Fleas: "The Choices"

Some years ago fleas were not really a problem because chlorinated hydrocarbons, such as DDT and Dieldrin, were being used as powders and rinses. These had a residual effect, however, and hung about in the environment for years and years, building up to dangerous levels that contaminated the soil and consequently the vegetation and the animals feeding upon it.

Although these flea rinses may have lasted a long time as flea deterrents, the environment and probably the pets, suffered as a result. These products are now thankfully banned. Most flea controls, in the form of flea rinses and collars, contain organophosphates and carbamates these days, but even some of these can be toxic.

 

Organophosphates Flea Rinses and Shampoos (POISON)

Did you read the label on the bottle before you put it on your dog? Are you wearing protective clothing, a mask, gloves and gown? Now get ready to Pest Control your dog. Why if you have to take all these precautions is it okay to use on your dog? It is also a living creature. It is also not advisable to have such highly toxic chemicals around your household.

Owners have a bad habit of not reading instructions carefully. They often apply the rinse at the wrong strength. No worries they think, until the animal gets sick. Then they complain, 'But we've rinsed him every day to keep the fleas off', when the instructions clearly stated that only weekly rinses were necessary. Organophoshate flea rinses should not be put on pups under 3 months of age.

The chemicals in the solution can become a health hazard to you, the dog and the environment. Why is it packaged in a glass or tin bottle? If left in a plastic container it will eat through it within a few days. Are you still going to douse your dog in this solution when there are other products you can use?

 

Pyrethrins and Synthetic Pyrethroids

Pyrethroids are available in the form of powders, shampoos or sprays. Natural pyrethrins are derived from pyrethrum, an extract from a type of chrysanthemum but, as there are not enough flowers available to meet the demand, synthetic pyrethroids, modelled on the natural version, are available on the market. Permethrin is one of these synthetic products. Pyrethroids and pyrethrins are generally safe in mammals (including humans) and birds but toxic to fish. They are safe to use where there are young children handling dogs. (Note: permethrin toxicity can be lethal to cats in multi-pet households). Some of the formulations contain an insect growth regulator which stops fleas breeding on the dog. Piperonyl butoxide is commonly combined with natural pyrethrins to enhance their insecticidal effect.

Topical Organophosphate Applications

Examples of these are Spot On and Cyflee. There are many brand names and are available through vets, pet shops and supermarkets. These are topical applications i.e. applied externally to the skin. but can be absorbed through the skin. Generally they are applied around the neck region. Organophosphates can be extremely toxic in animals and humans. They cannot be used when chemical flea rinses, collars, powders or tablets for fleas are also being used as this may cause poisoning.

It is not recommended to touch your dog for 24 hours after applying the product. Why? It is toxic when people touch it, as it is absorbed by the skin.

 

Oral Insecticides

Proban and Fleaban are organophosphates that are fed as drops or tablets and act systematically, that is to say through the whole body, to kill fleas. The flea must bite the dog in order to die. I wonder how the dog feels? If used incorrectly or with organiophosphate rinses or products you can poison your dog.

 

Flea Collars

Most flea collars exude tiny particles of insecticide spray or liquid which spread through the animal’s coat. Some pets are allergic to flea collars and develop a rash around the neck. We do not really know what effect inhaling insecticide long - term can have on a dog. Nor do we have any way of knowing how the animal feels if, for example, it has a terrible headache. Whatever the case may be, pets should not wear flea collars where there are any small children, nor should they be put on young pups, who can easily chew them with unhealthy results.

 

Program

Program does not kill adult fleas, it is an insect development inhibitor which sterilises the flea eggs and therefore stops reproduction of the flea. It takes approximately 2 months for it to work. The reason for this is that it sterilises the flea and stops them breeding and contaminating the environment with eggs but it doesn’t kill adult fleas already present on the pet or those that emerge from the pupae and jump on. Because of the rapid life cycle of the flea, within 2 months all or most of the flea eggs in the dog’s or cat’s immediate environment should have hatched. Note: It does not kill the fleas that are already in the environment  or on the dog or cat. So therefore you still need to use another insecticide to kill the adults e.g flea rinse.

Apparently it works really well, but, you have to treat all the cats and dogs in the household. If you have a lot of pets visiting regularly or if the pet is out a lot, it can still pick up fleas and will still need to be treated with a product to kill the adults e.g flea rinse or spot-on. These factors need to be considered when determining if Program is suitable for their pets.

It does work out expensive to start with as you have to buy a six monthly pack for every animal in the house. The price ranges from $30 - $58 per pet. You do not need to take your pets to the vet you just have to have their correct weight.

If your customers require any more information have them ring their Vet as it can only be obtained from Vet surgeries. A lot of comments have been made that this product will kill our trade. This is not true. People’s pets will still get dirty even if they don't have fleas.

 

Ovitrol Flea Collars

The Ovitrol flea collar is very different to the traditional flea collars. This collar contains an insect growth regulator which disrupts the life cycle of the fleas, thus preventing the fleas breeding and developing into adults. The flea cycle is broken because flea eggs are killed as they are laid. The collar lasts for 6 months and is unaffected by water, so it is all right to leave these collars on during bathing. The collar is black and rigid. (Be sure to confirm with the pet's owner of the type of flea collar they have on) They are also environmentally friendly and don't leave a residue.

As these collars work similar to Program they do not kill adult fleas so regular adulticide treatment is required e.g. bathing or flea spray/spot on. Again, like Program, it will take 2 - 3 months to break the flea life cycle.

 

FRONTLINE PLUS

frontlineplus1Frontline Plus contains two ingredients, one to kill the adult flea and the other to prevent the development of the environmental stages. Frontline treats and prevents flea infestions for 1 month and prevents the development of eggs, larvae and pupae for 12 weeks. Frontline can also be used for the control of brown dog ticks, paralysis ticks and biting lice on dogs and puppies. For control of paralysis ticks on dogs, Frontline Plus should be applied fortnightly or Frontline Spray every 3 weeks. In addition daily searching for ticks is recommended.

Frontline Spray is applied over the dog’s coat. The amount used depends on the dog’s size, the coat length and the level of flea infestation. It is a very safe product which can be used on cats, dogs, kittens and puppies (from 2 days of age).

Frontline may be used for the treatment and control of Flea Allergy Dermatitis and is ideal as the fleas do not need to bite to be killed.

Dogs may be treated with Frontline Plus following bathing and shampooing once they are dry. The product will spread over the coat within 24 hours. It is recommended not to bath or shampoo dogs during the 48 hours after treatment. Be sure to inform clients of this procedure. Studies indicate that weekly washing does not significantly reduce Frontlines activity

Frontline Plus is an excellent product particularly because of its safety margin, Frontline Plus can be used on puppies from 8 weeks of age and in breeding, pregnant or lactating dogs. Regular bathing and environmental control can help prevent reinfestation.

Dogs will still require a regular service to maintain their pet's best wellbeing. The Pooch Mobile hydrobath service is not just bathing dogs for flea control but to clean them, minimise skin problems, plus nail care, grooming, ear cleaning and advise on how they can best care for their pet.

Safety Directions: Wearing gloves is recommended when spraying Frontline.

Ticks: For the control of paralysis ticks apply Frontline Plus every 2 weeks in dogs or Frontline Spray (6ml/kg) every 3 weeks in dogs and cats. Always read the label instructions. Daily searching is still recommended. For further information on fleas and ticks visit the frontline website www.frontlineplus.com.au.

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