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Safe Options for Treating Your Puppy's Fleas

Fleas are an age-old problem for puppies, and they generally hang out in the lower portion of your puppy’s body, behind the shoulder blades. Fleas don’t live on dogs — they only feed on them. Fleas live in carpets and grass, so treating the problem involves all-out war.

One surefire way to detect a problem is to buy a flea comb and brush your dog’s rear with it. If you pull out some “dirt,” put it on a paper towel and add a few drops of water. If the dirt turns a reddish color, you’re holding flea excrement.

Treating your puppy for fleas

Talk to your veterinarian about safe options for treating your puppy. Your vet may recommend collars, oil pouches, or other products during flea season. (Use these remedies only as frequently as the label instructs.) These products repel fleas, but remember that fleas don’t live on your dog so much as feast on them, so repelling fleas from your dog may result in their jumping on people!

Don’t spray, rub, or squeeze flea prevention products near your dog’s face or bottom regions, because most products are toxic. Not all products are created equal. Pet stores sell many flea and tick preventions that aren’t as safe as some of the newer products.

If you want to deal with fleas in a pet- and human-safe way, you may want to look into nontoxic remedies. Some herbal sprays (home mixed or purchased) containing eucalyptus, lavender, and tea-tree oils may help with flea problems. You can also use a flea comb to remove the fleas from your puppy. (Then drown the fleas in a cup of soapy water.)

To discover other nontoxic ways to prevent and remedy flea infestations, talk to your vet. Also ask your vet about flea tablets or prevention powder. Although these remedies don’t take care of the fleas you have now, they do sterilize the fleas, putting a cramp in their reproductive cycles.

Treating your home and yard for fleas

Home isn’t so sweet when you share it with fleas. A full-blown flea infestation is like a scene from a horror show — bugs hopping on to your skin from every direction faster than you can bat them away. Treat your home the second you discover a flea problem. Following are some suggestions:

  • Ask your veterinarian for advice. He will likely recommend two treatments repeated in ten days to two weeks in order to kill the pupae that have turned into adults. No flea treatment can kill flea pupae.

    Talk about the pros and cons of different products. Select a product that treats all life stages and repeat the treatment as suggested. Don’t forget to check the flea product label to ensure that it’s EPA approved.

  • Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum. Not only do you pick up the adults, but you also scoop the eggs and larvae from their nests. Make sure you toss the bag after you vacuum, though — adult fleas are wonderful acrobats and may escape from the bag.

  • Treat your dog’s bedding by washing it with an anti-flea detergent from the pet store or by simply throwing it out.

  • After vacuuming, treat all rooms in your house with the recommended product.

  • Open all windows when you get home.

  • Exterminate fleas in the yard. A good freeze usually takes care of them, but if you can’t wait — or if you have mild winters — talk to your veterinarian about your options. Your entire yard should be treated (it can get costly if you own a large parcel), and your dog should be kept away from surrounding environments that may be infested.

Puppy hot spots

Dogs can be allergic to flea saliva, a condition veterinarians call flea allergy dermatitis. The itching from this condition is so intense that it can lead to hair loss and self-mutilation. Sometimes the itching gets so bad that your dog creates a hot spot (officially known as acute pyoderma, which is not due to a single underlying cause), and a bacterial infection develops.

A hot spot is a bright-red, hairless patch that looks scaly, and it may ooze pus if badly infected. It also hurts when touched and feels hot. If you notice a hot spot, take your puppy to the vet immediately and treat the problem before the condition gets any worse.

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