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Fleas are the true Bane of Dogdom

At last we have arrived at the point where we will deal with this gruesome monster. No, not creatures from outer space or Frankenstein - not the IMF either with its diktats and conditionalities. All of them put together can't equal the damage caused by that tiny wretch - the fearsome flea. The fleas must come in second only to the mosquito as the most malefic evil-doer in the insect world. But that's only from the perspective of us humans. To dogs (and cats too), fleas are the true bane of dogdom. For one thing, they are the most common parasite found on the skin of dogs. (Mange mites, with which we will deal later, are in the skin.) They feed on blood! They are the intermediary hosts for tapeworms! They create allergies!

All in all, they make your dog or cat miserable.

Luckily, they are easy to see - especially on a white dog. On a black dog you may look for sand-like grains on the coat. (These are fleas' eggs and flea excreta). Don't ask me how you are going to see fleas on a long-haired black dog. Just look! In fact, since flea faeces is comprised of digested blood you can spot the brownish-red colour on a damp piece of tissue which you have just rubbed on the coat of the long-haired dog. (You see - science and common sense usually have the answer.)

Also, there are special places to look for fleas:

(i) just where the tail joins on to the dog's body, (ii) back, (iii) legs, (iv) groin, (v) back of the neck. OK! OK! All over the dog.

I'll tell you, though, that I look first at the groin area and the underbelly. Less hair there, visibility is better. Also, since fleas cause itching, ergo scratching, bruises and hairless spots abound.

I will not evoke your ire by giving you dissertations about the flea's anatomy and physiology. I like this comparison though, so I'll share it with you: if the flea were the size of a man it would be able to jump over, with a single leap, five St George's Cathedrals stacked on top of each other. Fortified with that wisdom, we may now sally forth to do combat with Superfleas.dog-fleas

There are certain behavioural patterns of the flea that we must know, if we are to fight this parasite effectively. Firstly, it is important to know that they actually mate on the dog's skin. (How terribly depraved?) Then the female flea lays her eggs on the dog's skin. (Will the obscenity never end?) The eggs drop off - right on top of the carpet (the number of eggs falling on the carpet is in direct proportion to the expensiveness of the carpet), into the cracks in the kennel floor or on to your bed sheets. You see now why no dog of mine dares reach my bedroom door. Of course my friends, the Rhodes, will disagree. But then again, they take in so many orphans that the only space in their house would be on their beds. God bless you Tommy and Bunny Rhodes, but different strokes for different folks.

So now that we know where the fleas and their eggs are to be found, we may plan our attack. Firstly, kill them on the dog. (What a relief for the dog. He'll love you even more). Kill them with any - and everything: flea shampoo; Sevin Dust (an old favourite, but very dangerous if not used correctly); flea sprays (do not spray Baygon and such insecticides onto your dog's coat!); I prefer the flea sprays with the natural pyrethrins or even pyrethroids, but not the organo-phosphates); flea collars (make sure that the expiry date was not some time during the previous millennium - the unscrupulousness of some importers; insecticide dips (use as directed, with the dilution rate as directed).

Now having done all that, you can sit and wait for the eggs to hatch and jump onto your dog again. Then you kill those, and so on, and so on - thus diluting the flea population on the dog and in the immediate surroundings. That's a long, tiresome and sometimes an unsuccessful method. You may also spray/dust the dogs between the dips which should be carried out at two-weekly intervals. In addition, if you hate fleas as much as I do, you may use the flea collar (if you have perennial sunlight, it is advisable to replace flea collars every two months - max).

Of course, you may wish to call in the fumigators/exterminators and let them treat/spray/gas the entire premises. But that's expensive - don't I know!

I must mention in passing that some dogs (and cats!) are allergic to flea collars. If you notice a reaction, take off the collar at once. Of course, you will not allow the dogs in your household to chew each other's collars.

Lastly, let your veterinarian advise you as to which dewormer is incompatible with your flea collar. For example, if the flea collar has the same active ingredient as your dewormer, the double whammy can make your dog ill.

Keep your dog flea free; not even one flea must be on your dog. 'Cuss' your neighbour who tells you that only healthy dogs have fleas.

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