How to get rid of fleas

Fleas love your pets almost as much as you love them – they feed off your pet’s blood and, once they have found a tasty food source, they move in and start reproducing. They climb onto your pet on neighbourhood walks, play dates, get carried into your yard by other animals or even hitch a ride on humans and jump over to pets when the opportunity arises.

How to tell if your dog has fleas

As previously mentioned, fleas feed off your pet’s blood and this feeding causes your dog to itch. You will notice your pet scratching, biting or licking a lot and losing hair, especially near the tail base. If you run your fingers through your pet’s hair you will find flea dirt (small black granules) or even the critters themselves darting through the hair. They leave red bumps or scabs where they bit your pet to feed off it. You may even notice your pet’s behaviour changing – your pet may become restless or even seem nervous due to the constant itching and scratching.

Once you find fleas on your pet, you can assume that your home has now become their home as well. Thus, to eliminate them for good, you will have to rid both your pet and the environment of fleas and discourage the fleas from coming back.

How to treat your pet

Firstly, treat all the animals in your household for fleas as all of them will be infested. There are several products available over the counter and choosing the correct one for your pet can be daunting – your vet or the staff will be happy to help you with this. There are tablets that can be given to your dog as a treat – these work from the inside out to kill fleas and they are effective for 1 to 3 months, depending on which product you use. Flea collars are effective for up to 8 months, provided they stay on your pet for so long! Spot-on preparations are applied directly onto your pet’s skin and spread over your pet’s entire body to kill off all the fleas. Certain shampoos and sprays are also designed to kill off fleas.

Before you run to the vet shop, pop your pet onto your bathroom scale, or, if you don’t have one, take your pet along to the vet so he or she can be weighed there. All the flea treatments are dosed according to the weight of the animal and it is very important that your pet receives the correct dose – under dosing your pet makes the product less effective (essentially wasting your money and effort) and overdosing your pet can cause ill effects. If your pet is still a puppy or a kitten, make sure that he or she is old enough to be treated with the product as most of them are only regarded as safe for use after a certain age.

The tablets are generally very tasty and many dogs will gobble them up, thinking it’s a treat. If your dog picks up on your bluff you can try hiding it in his food but make sure to check that the tablet has been eaten afterwards. The last option is to open your dog’s mouth and shove the tablet down his throat.

If you opt for a collar, follow the packaging instructions when putting it on. If your pet manages to get it off it can be replaced straight away; do not let your pet chew the collar.

Similarly, follow the packaging instructions when applying a spot-on treatment. Bathing and swimming can interfere with the efficacy of spot-on treatments – the package insert will tell you when and how often your pet can be bathed or allowed to swim.

Remember that all these treatments are essentially pesticides – read the package inserts carefully before using the products, keep them away from children and wash your hands after using them. Always weigh your pet before buying a treatment so that you can make sure he or she receives the correct dose. The package insert will tell you how long the treatment is effective for and how frequently it must be used – stick to these time periods so you don’t end up overdosing your pet. Never use dog products on your cat and vice versa – some dog products contain substances that are poisonous to cats. Finally, do not use more than one treatment at the same time – it can be potentially harmful to your pet.

Brush your pet with a flea comb at least once a week to remove stragglers and dead fleas. Most local vet shops stock flea combs.

Make sure to keep the flea treatments up-to-date year-round. South African winters are not cold enough for fleas to die off so lapsing in your flea control at any time of the year poses the risk of the pesky critters coming back and you have to go through the entire process of eliminating them from scratch.

How to treat the environment

It is important to understand that the adult fleas you see on your pet are only 5% of the entire infestation – the other 95% are the eggs, larvae and pupae hiding around your house and yard. The adult fleas lay eggs on your pet’s coat, which then fall off onto your furniture, carpets, bedding and yard as your pets go about with their daily lives. Fleas like to hide where your pet spends most of its time and they prefer dark, cool environments, such as baseboards, upholstery and crevices.

Start by cleaning your house very thoroughly – think spring cleaning or in-laws-coming-to-visit cleaning. Vacuum all the floors, carpets, furniture, pet beds, nooks, crannies and crevices in your house and immediately empty your vacuum in the outside dustbin – you don’t want to give the fleas time to crawl back out. Steam clean carpets and spray flea spray onto all the areas that have been cleaned.

Machine wash all the pet beds, including covers, in hot water. Do the same for all the family bedding, bathroom rugs, towels, throw blankets and cushions. Also, tackle all the places where your pets like to sleep or lounge. Dry anything that can go into a hot dryer for 15-20 minutes.

Fog your home – buy a fogger that is effective against all flea life stages and follow the package instructions. Treat your yard with appropriate treatment and follow the package instructions. You can even consider calling in an exterminator company.

Accept the fact that it can take up to three months, or even more, of hard work to get rid of fleas for good -some unhatched eggs will, despite your best efforts, survive and hatch to start the life cycle again. Repeat the vacuuming, spraying and fogging regularly and thoroughly and wash pet bedding every week. Keep all your pets up-to-date on their flea treatments at all times and clean your car regularly – you never know how many flea passengers you may have.





How to keep flies off your dogs

In order to get rid of flies for good, you will have to treat both your dog and the environment he lives in.

Keeping your dog clean and healthy will go a long way in making him less attractive to flies. A dirty or matted fur coat will attract flies, while certain skin conditions and diarrhoea will worsen the problem even further. Regular baths and brushing will help keep your dog’s coat in top condition. If your dog is having diarrhoea, take him to the vet for examination and treatment and make sure to keep his perineum (rear end) clean during his recovery – you may need to wash the area or even consider clipping the surrounding hair if it is very long and troublesome. 

Flies are also most active during the hottest parts of the day – consider keeping your dog indoors during these times

Flies often target the ears to make painful wounds, which in turn attract even more flies. You can use some saline or dilute chlorhexidine to clean the wounds and apply a suitable ointment or repellent. Make sure the preparation is safe to use on your pet – your local vet shop or pet shop will be happy to advise you in this regard. As a general rule, never use dog preparations on cats – most of these preparations contain pyrethroids, which are toxic to cats. Also avoid any human products, essential oils or garlic (tasty for us but poisonous for pets). Some of these sprays can even be used on your dog’s bedding or resting areas – apply as often as required. Fly strips and fly traps may also help draw the flies away from your dog.

Remember that flies are scavengers – they are constantly looking for a meal in which to lay their eggs and continue their life cycle. Thus the best way of getting rid of them for good is to remove their food source, which means maintaining good hygiene in and around your home. Clean up all the waste in your yard, including food, faeces and half-chewed bones (though you shouldn’t be giving your dog bones), clean out your rubbish bins regularly so they don’t overflow and keep your dog’s food and water bowls clean. If you have a compost heap, keep it covered.

Certain herbs also repel flies in addition to being useful in the kitchen – consider planting some basil, bay leaf, mint or rosemary in your garden. Other herbs, such as lavender, sweet woodruff and tansy also repel flies while being nice for people.

Products you can use to repel flies include ExSpot, Shoo-Fly Ointment, Shoo-Fly Spray and Vets Own Repellent Shampoo.  There are many more and you can get these from our online shop.

How to trim a dog’s nails

Most dogs don’t like having their feet touched and clipping their nails is sometimes stressful to both the dog and owners alike. For this reason, it is always a good idea to get your dog used to have his feet touched and handled from an early age – spend a few minutes every few days touching or stroking his feet and even introducing the clippers without actually cutting the nails.  Make sure to follow these sessions with lots of praise and even some treats. 

What you’ll need:

  • Good restraint
  • A pair of clippers
  • Lots of praise or a tasty treat for afterwards

Some dogs are happy to sit on your lap while you do the trimming, but in most cases, it’s easier to have a helper hold your dog for you – you can’t make an accurate cut on a moving target. 

There are several types of clippers on the market, with guillotine clippers and scissor clippers being the most common. The scissor-type is easiest to work with and can be bought at most vets or vet shops.

Salon Grooming Guillotine Clipper

Salon Grooming Nail Clipper

Choose a time when both you and your dog are feeling calm and content – remember that dogs are experts at picking up on how you are feeling and quickly become stressed if they notice that you are impatient, stressed, in a rush or otherwise dreading it – already not a good start!

Similar to your own nails, a dog’s nails also consist of the nail and the quick. The quick is the pink part that contains the blood vessels and nerves of the nail – if your dog has light-coloured nails you’ll be able to see the quick.

So how do you go about it?

Once you are ready, have your helper hold your dog for you and hold one of his paws firmly but gently in your non-dominant hand. Use your fingers to gently separate the toes to make clipping the nails easier. Hold the clippers in your dominant hand and clip the nail below the quick, taking off small increments each time. Aim to cut the nail 2-3mm below the quick. If the nail feels spongy, don’t cut – you’re probably cutting the quick. In most cases, you’ll be able to trim the nail to the level where the clipper starts lying flat against the footpad.

Always remember to cut the dewclaws as well, if your dog has them. The dewclaws don’t contact the floor surface at all and thus don’t get worn down like the other nails – if they are left to grow too long they will eventually start growing into the pad, which is painful.

If you cut the quick it will be painful to your dog and it will bleed. Keep in mind that it always looks more dramatic than it actually is – no dog has ever died from a nail cut into the quick. It is much the same as cutting your own nail into the quick. If this happens immediately give your dog a tasty treat and use an earbud or piece of cotton wool to apply pressure to the bleeding nail – the nail will stop bleeding within a few minutes. Even though you feel very bad about it, try not to dwell on it or make a fuss of it – your dog will pick up on how you are feeling, think that something very bad happened and develop a negative association towards having his nails trimmed.

Always give lots of praise and treats so that your dog associates nail trimming with good things. 

Many dogs are drama queens when it comes to trimming their nails – if you are struggling in any way don’t hesitate to contact your vet. He or she will be happy to show you a few tricks or even trim the nails for you.