Are fleas that big a deal?  Fleas are more than just an irritation.  They use your blood (and your pet’s blood) as a meal to lay their eggs.  Gross!  The itching comes from an irritation in the saliva.  But the itching is a good thing!  Say WHAT??!!  If the bite didn’t itch, we may not even know the fleas are around.  And you DON’T want fleas on your dog, in your house, or on you because in “Fleas and Flea-borne Diseases” by Idir Bitram et al. published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, climate change and the destruction of natural habitats are driving fleas into more industrial locations.  This holds a real danger of epidemics of plagues like the one called The Black Death that killed millions of people in the Middle Ages.  Fleas are responsible for outbreaks of typhus, spotted fever, and tungiasis which can cause sores and even gangrene.

Why are ticks on my dog so bad?

Ticks are even more disgusting that fleas because they latch onto the skin and suck the blood until they are so full they fall off and waddle off to lay their eggs.  Gag!  They may first look like small bumps, but as they become more engorged, they can be easily seen.  Removing them requires getting them to let go, or the head will be left under the skin.  Like fleas, ticks are responsible for various forms of typhus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and other nasties.

Where do dog fleas come from?

Fleas come from the outdoors.  But they don’t mind coming indoors.  The eggs are laid in shady areas protected from the wind and after hatching, just wait for your dog to stroll by before hitching a ride.  And where does your dog like to lie down when he or she gets hot?  You guessed it.  Shady spots.  There you have it.  Shade causes fleas.  Just kidding.

How do I know if my dog has fleas?

There are a number of reasons your dog may scratch.  They could have dry skin.  They may have an allergy.  Or they may have fleas.  You can tell if your dog has fleas by looking at the places on their tummy with less hair or by separating the hairs of the coat.  There’s no mistaking them.  They scurry away to try to hide again.  One indicator for me to start looking is that I will start to get flea bites.  You may think they are other insect bites, particularly if it’s winter, but a flea bite will itch and look like a round-shaped bump surrounded by a halo shape.  I must be sweet, because fleas love to bit me – at least that’s what my mama told me.

How do fleas get in the house?

There was a time when the fleas in my house were so bad that I could see them jumping from the furniture onto my arms.  At that point, I called an exterminator and paid for months for regular treatments to get rid of them.  Don’t wait as long as I did!  There are steps you can take!  Fleas get into your house by riding on you or your pets.  They won’t walk in like beetles or fly in like a bee.  They have to ride.  They will jump on a potential host when the person or animal is outside, then either stay on the ride and start to bite or jump off onto anything in your house and either lay eggs (!!!) or pick another victim.

How do I get Ticks?

I am not kidding you, I felt something tickle my leg today in October and plucked off a TICK!  EUWWW!  Then it happened again twenty minutes later!  Different tick!  I was freaking out because I was in my office.  So I jumped right in and researched it and this is what I found . . .

  • Wild animals will bring ticks into your yard.  This is squirrels, possums, and other things you may not even know that wander around under cover of night.  Then the ticks come in with you and your pets. 
  • Fleas and ticks may come home following a trip to the vet, a boarding kennel, or the play park.  They will move from one animal to another, so don’t blame your vet or kennel.  They can’t screen every animal that comes in the door.

Can dogs get fleas from grass?

Absolutely!  While fleas cannot fly, they can REALLY jump!  They jump from the grass to your dog and/or you and then right into your carpet, clothes, drapes, and furniture.  Yeesh!  In fact, fleas live outside because of all 

the potential places to lay eggs and mammals to suck blood from.  Literally every warm-blooded animal from raccoons to panthers have fleas.

how to get rid of fleas and ticks on dogs

First, consider the environment.  Your yard can be planted with vegetation that ticks and fleas aren’t wild about.  Cool!  Consider bug bombs or an exterminator to make sure eggs are out of your home.  There are even electronic bug blasters.  Let me know if these work, because I’ve never gotten one.  Wash dog bedding frequently and dry on the hot cycle. 

I haven’t had much luck with dog collars that repel fleas and ticks, but you are welcome to give them a shot.  I use a flea/tick repellent that I put between their shoulders once a month.  I use Bayer K9 Advantix and haven’t seen any at all this summer.  I go ahead and use it all year long because I live in Texas and its hot during most months.
I also like to bathe my dogs.  Since we hike every day and splashing through standing water is a favorite activity, I actually need to wash them daily, but have read that once a month is about the max.  According to The Dog Bakery, a good recipe for a dry shampoo is to spread one-half to one cup of whole bran, cornmeal, or uncooked oatmeal on a cookie sheet and warm in an oven on low heat for about five minutes.  This brings out the grain’s natural oils.  Take your pooch outside and rub a handful into his coat and skin with a towel.  The dirt will come up into the towel and he’ll shake out the rest (this is why you go outside or into the garage in the winter!).  Give him a good brushing to get all the grain out, or you’ll find it all over the house.  After brushing, I rub my dogs down with a clean towel – a dark towel will show if the grain is all out.  Besides getting out dirty until the next shampoo, it exfoliates your dog’s skin!  If you want to get the added benefit of flea repellent and a good smell, add a sprinkling of rosemary, fennel, and eucalyptus along his back, belly, and neck.  This doesn’t get rid of fleas, but will help keep them from jumping on during trips outside.

I also use a flea and tick shampoo when I wash my fur babies in the warm weather when the pests are literally out for blood.  I prefer a conditioning shampoo called Nature’s Miracle Oatmeal Shampoo in the winter because the dry heat from the furnace causes scratching from dry skin, but in the summer I rely on Adam’s Flea and Tick Shampoo with Precor.  Precor is an additive that kills fleas, ticks, lice, and eggs for four weeks and that makes me feel better about my house and animals.

Here is a DYI solution from WIKIHow for getting rid of fleas and keeping them gone from your pet and your home:

Fleas HATE the taste of apple cider vinegar!  Make a solution with on e cup of apple cider vinegar, a quart of warm water, and one ounce of Castille soap.  Don’t use straight vinegar because it will irritate the skin.  Wear rubber gloves and long sleeves when you wash your dog because the fleas might jump off her onto you when that solution hits them!  Completely soak your pet and rub the solution deep into the hair.  Be careful not to get it in the eyes, yours or hers!  Before rinsing, use a special flea comb to remove the pests and rinse it off each time you make a pass.  If you find ticks, use a pair of tweezers to remove it without crushing or twisting it.  It will already want to get out of there because of the vinegar around it.  Rinse well, wait ten minutes, then repeat the process again.

The cool thing about this solution is it’s not just for washing your dog.  You can mix a gallon of apple cider vinegar with ½ gallon of water, 16 ounces of lemon juice, and 8 ounces of witch hazel (near peroxide in the pharmacy section of your grocery store).  Put in a spray bottle and go to town!  Spray every surface in your home!  Spray the dog and the dog bed and everything you see . . . okay, maybe not the kids.  It won’t damage woodwork or linoleum or fabrics.  Let the surface dry before you replace items.  If you’re just looking to prevent fleas, once a month is good.  If things are bad, you can spray every 2-7 days.

how to check to see if fleas are gone?

Here is an easy flea trap to see if your hard work has paid off.  Set a shallow dish with water and a cap of dish soap swirled into it under a light on the floor around the house.  The next day, you will see fleas doing the backstroke under their artificial sun.  Keep spraying until your bowls not longer have fleas in them.

To keep your home and animals flea-free, use the vinegar solution without the soap and spray your pooch every so often.  What the heck!  Hit the whole house!  I hate flea bites, I hate when my dogs scratch, I hate bubonic plague, and I hate fleas!  Now go get ‘em!  The only good flea is a dead flea!
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