When you own a pet, the dreaded “F-word” is an unfortunate fact of life. We’re not talking about the word you can’t say in front of your grandma, we’re talking about fleas. These tiny, annoying pests affect all types of dogs. From famous canine Instagram stars and modest shelter dogs to tiny toy Yorkies and giant Cane Corso puppies, the flea is an equal-opportunity invader.
As soon as the weather starts to warm up, the flea population blooms. This creates a hazard for both you and your furry friend. While there’s nothing you can do to avoid fleas completely, there are some things you can do to minimize their impact. Let’s take a closer look at the danger fleas bring and the best ways to protect your puppy.
The Problem with Fleas
It’s easy to tell if your puppy has picked up fleas. You’ll likely notice him itching, licking, and chewing his skin. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always end there. A flea infestation can cause a host of health issues. This ranges from simple problems like hot spots and skin allergies to far more dangerous conditions including bacterial infections, tapeworm, and anemia. In severe cases, flea infestations can cause your puppy to lose weight and feel weak and lethargic. Anemia brought on by fleas can also lead to respiratory distress and even death.
Tips for Protecting Your Pup
The best way to deal with fleas is to avoid getting them in the first place. Taking a few proactive steps to protect your puppy year-round will help you avoid the daunting task of dealing with a full-on infestation when the weather warms up. Here are five things you’ll want to start doing right away.
1. Groom Your Pet Regularly
Regularly bathing and grooming your puppy will keep him feeling fresh and is also a great way to keep fleas at bay. While you brush your dog, keep an eye out for any signs of skin irritation or flea bites. Catching and treating issues right away will help keep them from becoming a much larger problem.
2. Use a Quality Flea Preventative
There are a lot of options when it comes to flea-prevention products. Many pet owners prefer topical products, like Frontline Plus, or a monthly dose of oral preventative. Both of these methods are convenient and effective while also being fairly inexpensive.
Other flea-prevention options include sprays, powders, and flea collars. Before making your decision, it’s a good idea to talk to your vet and weigh the pros and cons of each. Your puppy’s age and weight might also be a deciding factor when it comes to safety and effectiveness. Whatever product you choose to use, make sure it hasn’t expired. Out-of-date products are often less effective, leaving your puppy vulnerable to infestation.
3. Clean Up Your Yard
When you’re preparing to bring your puppy home, make sure you add cleaning up your yard to the to-do list. Fleas love to live in areas that are warm, wet, and shady. This makes yards that are full of organic debris a safe-haven for them. Mow your yard regularly and make sure you rake up the clippings and dead leaves. Avoid over-watering your yard and trim your bushes and trees to help keep the grassy areas hot and sunny. Consider creating a natural barrier that looks beautiful and keeps fleas away by planting lemongrass, basil, rosemary, mint, or sage near your front and back doors.
Fleas hate the smell of cedar, so consider adding it as decorative mulch around your plant beds. You can also sprinkle cedar chips in shady areas of your yard, under your porch, around lawn furniture, and near dog bedding. It’s safe to mow over and completely non-toxic, so there’s really no limit to the areas where you can use it. Sprinkling cedar chips around your fence line will also deter fleas from coming in from your neighbors’ yards.
4. Keep the Wildlife Out
Wild animals coming into your yard can bring flea eggs with them. Some of the most common offenders include deer, opossums, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and even untreated dogs and cats. Installing a protective barrier like a fence will help with some, but not all, of these pesky visitors.
To avoid turning your yard into a wildlife hot spot, make sure there are no easily-accessible food sources nearby. Also, remove any debris that could create convenient hiding spots for unwelcome guests. If you notice unwanted animals hanging around, consider putting down a non-toxic repellent or using other pet-safe deterrent methods.
5. Schedule Regular Check-Ups
Regularly taking your puppy to the vet for his check-ups will help you catch small issues before they become a major problem. Your vet will also help you monitor how your puppy is tolerating the flea prevention treatment you’ve chosen and will help you explore other options if you decide you need a change.
How to Deal with a Flea Infestation
No matter how careful you are, there’s a chance that at some point your puppy will end up with fleas. If this happens, don’t panic! Acting quickly and thoroughly will help you eliminate the problem without too much hassle. Here are some of the best ways to get fleas off or your pets and out of your house.
1. Start by Treating the Puppy
Removing the fleas from your puppy should be your number one priority. Start by giving him a bath with a gentle, puppy-safe flea shampoo. This will help soothe any irritation caused by flea bites and kill the adult fleas living in his fur. Combing your puppy’s fur with a fine-toothed flea comb will also help the process.
Unfortunately, flea shampoo doesn’t do anything to eliminate larvae or kill the eggs, so you’ll likely also need an over-the-counter or prescription flea medication. Make sure to talk to your vet before you start treatment to ensure that you’re using a product that’s safe for your puppy’s age-range. Most topical flea treatments are toxic when ingested, so you’ll need to take precautions to avoid accidental poisoning.
2. Eliminate Fleas from Your Home
Fleas only live on their hosts five percent of the time, so getting them out of your home is a huge part of the battle. If you treat your puppy without also treating your carpets, bedding, and furniture, you’re wasting your time.
Many people prefer to treat their home with natural flea repellent. Some of your options include tea tree oil, eucalyptus or lavender oil, food-grade diatomaceous earth, and beneficial nematodes. Remember, however, that “natural” doesn’t automatically mean “safe.” Make sure that any product you’re using is formulated for use around small animals and that it’s diluted properly. Tea tree oil, for example, can be toxic if you use too strong of a mix.
You’ll also want to give your entire house a thorough cleaning to remove larvae and eggs. Use a high-quality flea-killing carpet spray and make sure you throw your vacuum bag away as soon as you’re done. Wash both your bedding and your dog’s bedding in hot, soapy water to kill anything that’s living in them. Household sprays and foggers can be effective in getting rid of bad infestations. Unfortunately, they can also be dangerous to other pets, including fish, as well as children. Always read the labels and follow the instructions carefully.
3. Tackle Your Back Yard
Finally, you’ll need to take steps to get rid of any fleas that are already living in your yard, so they don’t jump right back onto your dog and into your home. If your infestation is bad, you might consider putting down an outdoor chemical treatment. Remember, however, that these are usually toxic and could accidentally poison your puppy or other animals coming into your yard. If you choose to go this route, heed the warnings on the label and use extreme caution. Be sure to remove all toys from the yard before spraying and don’t allow children or animals to touch the grass until it’s completely dry.
For a safer flea-control option, consider making your own flea traps. This is a simple as setting out a small dish of soapy water with a light bulb or lamp over it and leaving it overnight. Fleas will be attracted to the light, jump into the water, get trapped, and drown. You can also purchase premade non-toxic flea traps from most hardware stores.
Some Final Thoughts
If your puppy ends up with fleas, don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s a very common occurrence that every pet owner deals with at one time or another. When it happens, simply take a deep breath and follow the steps above to systematically eliminate them. If you find that the problem continues despite your best efforts, reach out to your vet to discuss your specific situation in detail. In most cases, prescription-strength products will take care of the issue once and for all.
Bio: Curt Gebers owns Red Rock Canyon Cane Corso which is a widely recognized Cane Corso kennel based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Red Rock Canyon Cane Corso is listed as a Breeder of Merit with the AKC, a title given to only the most responsible breeders who adhere to the highest standards when breeding and placing puppies.