Perfect Puppy Care Book – Chapter 7 – Puppy Health Care (Part 6)
Chapter 7 – Puppy Health Care (Part 6)
External Parasites (Continued…)
Fleas are small, dark brown or black insects that feed on blood. These persistent little parasites prefer warm, humid environments. They have powerful back legs and can jump considerable distances. Fleas move through your dog’s fur very rapidly and can be very hard to catch.
In most dogs, flea bites cause mild itching. In young puppies or with severe infestations, they can cause anemia and even death. Some dogs develop allergies to flea saliva and can experience severe itching, loss of fur, and skin infections.
If your puppy is scratching, run a fine-toothed comb through her fur. Be sure to check her belly, around her tail and groin area, and her back. If you see little dark specks of what look like dirt, they are probably flea feces. These are actually bits of digested blood. If you were to smear them on a wet paper towel, they would be a reddish brown color. You also may see tiny white specks, which are flea eggs.
Controlling fleas is a multi-step process because of their life cycle. During her lifetime, a female flea can lay hundreds of eggs. These eggs fall off your puppy and incubate in carpets, beneath furniture, and in cracks and bedding. They hatch in one to ten days as slender, whitish worm-like larvae. The larvae avoid light and burrow into carpet or outside dirt. They feed on small bits of animal or plant debris and adult flea feces until they are fully grown, which can be from five days to three weeks. The larvae then spin cocoons, where they develop into a pupa and then an adult. The cocoon protects the larvae from insecticides. Fleas can stay in their cocoons from less than a week to more than four months. Adult fleas come out of their cocoons after a physical disturbance or when they sense warm-blooded animals. After hatching, adult fleas have about two weeks to find a host before they die.
Because your house could have flea eggs, larvae, protected larvae in cocoons, and adult fleas at any given time, it’s important to use a multi-step flea control program. Often, one form of control will not kill all life stages of the flea. Do your research first, however, so that you don’t put too many poisons in your puppy’s environment. The combination that you choose must be safe for your puppy and your family.
Talk with your veterinarian about the different types of flea treatments available for your puppy. Some are not appropriate for very young or small puppies, so it’s important to find out what’s safe. Here are some of the most common:
- Pills: Some treatments come in the form of a pill. When a flea bites your puppy, it ingests the medication, which helps to prevent flea eggs from fully maturing. This type of treatment doesn’t kill adult fleas, however, so it will take time to reduce the entire flea population in your home if you have a bad infestation. You usually use this type of treatment along with a topical treatment to kill adult fleas. It also requires the flea to bite your puppy, so if your puppy develops an allergy to flea bites, this method may not be your best option. Some pills combine heartworm preventive with flea treatment.
- Liquids: Other treatments include liquids that you apply between your puppy’s shoulder blades. These kill adult fleas before they’ve had a chance to reproduce. The flea does not have to bite your puppy for the treatment to work, because it kills fleas on contact. A single treatment can last for 30 or more days and can remain effective even if your puppy gets wet, depending on the brand. Some liquids also kill ticks, and others contain heartworm preventive.
- Flea Shampoos: Flea shampoos will kill fleas only when they are on your puppy. Once you rinse them off, they have no residual effect.
- Powders and Dusts: Flea powders and dusts last longer than shampoos, but you have to work them down through your puppy’s coat onto her skin thoroughly. They can make your puppy’s coat dry and gritty.
- Sprays, Dips, and Foams: Flea sprays, dips, and foams may be good choices if you have a bad infestation, or if your puppy is allergic to flea bites. Depending on the brand, they can kill fleas for up to a couple of weeks. A water-based spray may be preferable to an alcohol-based spray because it is less likely to dry out your puppy’s coat, and it won’t be flammable. If you use spray or foam on your puppy, start behind her neck and move downward, toward her tail. This will prevent the fleas from fleeing toward her face and ears. Flea dips soak all the way to the skin, where they quickly kill the parasites and have a long-lasting effect. Sprays, dips, and foams are among the most toxic flea treatments, so always consult your veterinarian before using them.
- Collars: Flea collars can help but won’t kill all fleas. They don’t cover your dog the way other treatments can and must be replaced frequently. Never let your puppy chew or bite a flea collar.
Before you apply any pesticides, wash your puppy’s bedding. Thoroughly vacuum your home with a heavy-duty or commercial vacuum cleaner. Vacuum carpets, floors, and all upholstery. If possible, have your carpets professionally cleaned. The beating brushes in a quality vacuum can remove one quarter of the flea larvae and over half of the flea eggs. Vacuuming is also a physical disturbance, so it stimulates fleas to leave their cocoons. After cleaning, take the vacuum outside, remove the bag, and discard it.
Once you’ve vacuumed, apply an insecticide to your home. Flea bombs are easy to use, but they are not very effective. They release chemicals all over a room, not just where fleas are located. Instead, use spot treatments with sprays directed at the floor. Treat wherever your puppy has access: carpets, under furniture near pet areas, and in floor edges and cracks. You don’t have to treat the entire carpet or all floor areas. If your puppy is allowed on the furniture, treat under the cushions. Always check the product label for instructions and safety concerns.
Don’t forget to treat your yard, too, or you’ll miss an important step in your flea-killing program. Mow the grass first, and collect and discard the clippings. Treat the areas where your puppy has access.
You may have to repeat these steps several times to kill all the fleas as they emerge from their protective cocoons. You also may want to call a professional exterminator. He can help you get the problem under control so that you can focus on handling preventive maintenance afterward.
Ringworm is caused by a fungus that invades the hair and its follicles. It usually occurs in puppies and young adult dogs and commonly affects the ears, face, paws, and tail. Your puppy can get ringworm by coming into contact with ringworm spores in soil or the infected hair of dogs, cats, or people. People can get ringworm from dogs, and vice versa. Children especially are susceptible to ringworm infection.
Symptoms include a spreading circle of hair loss with scaly skin in the middle and a red ring around the edge. It can trigger a secondary infection with crusty, scabby skin that causes your puppy to scratch or lick. The symptoms of ringworm look like the symptoms of other diseases, so it’s important to take your puppy to the veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment includes medication from your veterinarian. You must thoroughly clean your dog’s toys and grooming supplies as well, and it may be a good idea to throw out her bedding. Thoroughly clean your home and clothing to prevent the spread of ringworm to the rest of your family. As long as your puppy has ringworm, don’t let children touch her. If you have concerns about your family’s health, consult your physician.
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