Scratching Is Probably More Than Fleas

Diane writes: I have 3 dogs. Two are 40 pounds each, one is 110 pounds. I always used Frontline until fleas seemed resistant. I’ve been trying others and am currently on Bio Spot [an over-the-counter Farnam product]. I just gave the 2nd treatment (in 15 days….they say that is “legal” one time only) and in 3 hours they were back to chewing themselves. I called [a professional pest control company]. For a small fortune they will do inside and outside. I spent half the night online looking up home remedies…e.g. salt, vacuuming, etc. I already have been keeping my place vacuumed and bedding washed almost daily. Now that you have heard this familiar and sad story, would you please answer three questions?

1. Why is this particular season so awful? Is it the heat?You can see Misty's hair is short where she has been chewing above her tail.

2. Any suggestions on flea medication?

3. Does professional treatment tend to “do the job”?

Thanks for your assistance, Diane.

Diane has raised some important issues, although the main phrase I want to focus on for this post is, “in 3 hours they were back to chewing themselves.”

As I often ask clients, “If you were itchy, and checked yourself for fleas, would you stop there?”

Of course, the answer is no.

Indeed, we probably wouldn’t even check ourselves for fleas, yet we tend to think first of fleas when our pets are itchy, then don’t think any further.

As previously mentioned, a bite from a flea is actually a non-event. If a pet is scratching, he either has a LOT of fleas, or he has a dermatologic problem.

And it’s much more likely that it’s the latter.

So, once you’ve controlled fleas on your pet, in the house and in the yard, if scratching is ongoing it usually means it’s time for a trip to see your pet’s doctor so that the dermatologic problem can be diagnosed and solved medically.

Also, don’t forget that a certain amount of scratching is normal.

To answer Diane’s other questions:

  1. Heat (especially accompanied by dry conditions) is an enemy of fleas. However, moderate heat, accompanied by ample rain can help grow generations of fleas faster.
  2. For us, Revolution and Comfortis are helping our flea problems the best. Be assured that trying “old wives’” remedies will lead to poor flea control and some can even be dangerous for your pet.  Vacuuming, however, is an essential step in controlling fleas indoors.
  3. I’ve included a link to a post on how to control fleas in your house and yard. The biggest advantage of hiring a pest control company is that you can purchase a plan with a guarantee that says, “If I see any fleas you will come back and re-treat at no charge.” The other advantage is that someone else does the treatment for you. As Diane points out, it will cost more than doing it yourself. I recommend that our clients try to do their own, and call the pros if they fail.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

You can see Misty’s hair is short where she has been chewing above her tail.

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