Ever wonder how to get rid of my dogs fleas, or other buggy intruders?
(whispering…a la Wizard of Oz)
Heartworms and tapeworms and fleas, OH MY!
Hookworms and roundworms and whips, OH MY!
Year round prevention of bugs? OH MY!
We’re….OFF to see the Wizard…
Hey, I couldn’t resist, y’all know about my theater background, and here in North Texas we’ve been dodging tornadoes lately.
Besides, when it comes to pet parasites, I just want to unleash the FLYING MONKEYS…except they’re liable to be plagued by fleas, too. Even flying monkeys deserve to be pest free, but there are still many pet parents who may not have all the facts about canine intestinal and external parasites and how to kick the bugs out. So…how much do YOU know?
THE TRUTH ABOUT FLEAS & HOW TO GET RID OF MY DOGS FLEAS
The flea’s flat body is armored with cuticle plates that make it nearly crush-proof, and the narrow profile promotes easy movement through fur. An adult flea can live from a few weeks to more than a year, but more typically lives about thirty days. Fleas set up permanent housekeeping on the pet, and stay there unless involuntarily evicted. However, adults represent only about 5 percent of the total flea population. The remaining 95 percent of the bug count is composed of immature life stages: eggs, larvae and cocoons.
After mating, female fleas store sperm to use as needed; a blood meal stimulates her to lay eggs. She can produce over 2000 eggs in thirty days, and up to 50 each day. Eggs typically fall from the host, and may remain dormant in the environment (the carpet or yard) for as long as six months. But normally, eggs hatch into tiny, maggot-like larvae within one to two weeks. They are virtually invisible to the naked eye, and subsist on the waste passed by adult fleas (sometimes referred to as “flea dirt), and other organic material.
Larvae spin cocoons in about three weeks, where they mature into adults. From inside the cocoon, the flea’s antennae and bristles are able to detect body heat and odor, changes in light, touch and moisture, and even traces of carbon dioxide exhalation of a nearby host. This prompts the flea to emerge from the cocoon, and immediately snag a canine victim. The cycle from egg to adult takes only 21 days under ideal conditions. Meanwhile, all those immature stages can just hang around and wait for a good time to target your pooch.
Dogs that come indoors for even brief periods will seed flea eggs in your house which, given time to mature, quickly turn your house into a flea hotel. Fleas lurk in dog beds, (AND PEOPLE BEDS!), upholstery, carpeting, and even in your car! Vacuuming may even help spread the buggy bounty to other rooms in your house. That turns flea problems from a “seasonal itch” into a year round hazard.
WHY DOGS NEED ALL YEAR PARASITE HELP
The weather is so mild here in Texas, that mosquitoes are year round pests, which makes canine heartworm disease a hazard all year long, for both indoor and outdoor pets. But the same is true if you live in cold northern states. Here’s why.
Dogs must be protected with a preventive heartworm treatment for at least 6 months after being last bitten by a mosquito, or you risk having heartworms develop. That’s because the medications can only kill the stages of a developing heartworm for the first ~3-4 months after a bite, and again once it becomes an adult by about 6 months after the mosquito bite.
That leaves a DANGER ZONE gap during which no drug is effective against these deadly parasites.
Heartworm Life Cycle
When an infected mosquito bites your dog in August, larvae are deposited upon the skin and gain entrance to the body through the bite wound left by the mosquito. The heartworm undergoes many more molts and development stages during the next several months, during which time it migrates inside your dog’s body. Learn about cat heartworm disease here.
Heartworm preventive can kill these baby worms during this migratory state, and prevent the parasite from reaching the heart and pulmonary arteries where it matures–it’s important, though, to treat a couple of months beyond the last mosquito bite of the season and on into the fall. But here’s the deal: how do you know the date of your dog’s last mosquito bite? Besides, that’s not how preventative is designed to work. Starting and stopping and missing the right timing risks your dog’s health.
Think about it. If you stop giving your dog preventive for half the year during the cold season, because you’re guessing mosquitoes aren’t around, you probably won’t kill the “baby worms” already percolating for potential havoc inside your canine buddy. In my part of the country (N. Texas), mosquitoes hang around even during the winter.
Because it’s so economical to prevent this threat, yet costs major $$ (and possibly your dog’s life) if you forget a dose, it’s really a no-brainer for me. Besides, getting in the habit of a healthy routine helps you remember and never forget to give your special dogs their preventative.
The best and easiest way to protect your dog is to never skip a dose because heartworm preventative is most effective against infections that occurred in the month prior to taking the medicine. I treat Magical-Dawg year round with preventive to keep him flea and heartworm free. What about you?
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!