Fleas are more than just an annoyance for our dogs and cats. They can cause health problems that go beyond mere itching and bites. They can also spread to everyone else in the house. These insects may be tiny, but they can cause a world of discomfort.
What is a Flea?
A flea is a parasite that sucks blood from its victims. Their bodies are made for jumping and running, so they move easily from animal to animal, including the human members of the household. They can populate quickly if left unchecked. The female feeds on the blood of the dog or cat and then leaves droppings that are a source of nutrition for the larvae they produce. If you see specks that look like dirt on the skin or in the fur of your dog or cat, you are looking at a food source for the female flea’s offspring.
You can wait to see if your dog gets fleas, but sometimes a proactive treatment to prevent them is a better option, particularly if you live in a region that is prone to the growth of flea populations. They are drawn to warmth and humidity, and they like low altitudes. Check with your vet or pet store to get an appropriate medication to help prevent the fleas from getting a hold to populate on your pet’s skin.
Our dog Bear is a big fluffy dog, and fleas love her. Every year around the start of spring we begin to notice her scratching and chewing a bit and immediately give her a bath. For some reason the fleas seem to thrive after that bath making her miserable. Julia Williams tackled a few of the myths about fleas that many folks believe. Now it’s time to see about some of the home remedy myths concerning fleas. While fleas can be a hassle, it is all part of responsible pet ownership.
We have tried all sorts of home remedies and over the counter topical treatments, and have found that there is some truth to nearly all the rumors about what works but that it really takes a combination of things to get rid of the fleas on our dog and the ones that invade our house each year around this time. After all, it does no good to get the fleas off of Bear if there are fleas in the house to jump back on her. So, here is a brief recounting of my experience with home remedies for fleas.
Dawn original blue dish detergent is said to be quite effective on fleas and is gentle on a dog’s skin. We actually use Dawn to bathe the dog quite often and yes, it does kill the fleas that are alive on her at the time. I’m assuming that has more to do with drowning and less to do with any sort of chemical death because it doesn’t seem to affect the eggs and doesn’t repel fleas after the bath.
If your cats are anything like mine, they’re probably allowed to sleep anywhere they want. Actually, ‘allowed’ is not the right word; it’s not like you can really stop a determined cat from sleeping somewhere once they decide it’s where they want to be. But I digress. If your cat likes to sleeps on the bed, sofa, your favorite chair or in the linen closet (on your clean towels, naturally), why do you even need a cat bed? For starters, cat beds provide a comfortable, cozy, soft and warm place they can curl up in for those 16 hours of beauty sleep. If you slept for two-thirds of your life, wouldn’t you want your naptime to be as comfy as possible? I thought so.
Aside from the comfort issue, cat beds can also help to keep the cat hair and dander off your furniture and carpet. Cat beds are also easier to clean than the furniture – just try throwing your sofa into the washing machine! If fleas are an issue where you live, a washable cat bed can really help to combat that awful pest. One last reason I buy cat beds is not for them, but for me. You just can’t beat the ‘awwwww’ factor of a cat curled up all snug in their little bed. It’s a sight that warms my heart no matter how many times I see it.
Choosing the Purrfect Cat Bed
There are so many styles of cat beds available, that trying to pick the best one can make your head swim. Price is all over the map, too. Size, materials, quality and maker all influence the price, as will where you buy it. Sometimes, a cheap cat bed can be just as comfortable as a higher-priced one, though beds with special features like luxurious fabric and cat-safe heaters will obviously cost more. Ideally, you should shop for cat beds in person rather than online, so you can see and feel the fabric and check for quality, construction and safety issues.
Cat Bed Styles
Cat beds come in a myriad of shapes including round, oblong, cube, tunnel, ball and pyramid. Some cat beds are open on the top, while others offer a cave-like hideaway. The ‘sleeping bag’ cat beds are perfect for felines who like to get underneath the bedcovers. Heated cat beds are wonderful for older, arthritic cats or kitties recovering from an illness. Remember those plush beanbag chairs from the seventies? Slumber balls have the same spherical shape but they’re sized for cats, who can burrow into them to create a cozy nest. You can also find fancy cat beds in fun designs, but they’re more costly. One I covet is a leopard print kitty-sized ‘loveseat’ that looks like the coziest place ever for a catnap.
By Julia Williams I follow a lot of other pet bloggers, and have read so many touching stories of a beloved pet’s adoption day. I didn’t think to tell my own Gotcha Day tales, primarily because I don’t know the actual date. The three cats I have now were all what I call “accidentally adopted,” i.e. I didn’t set out to find a cat to adopt but rather, they found me. And even then, I had no intention of keeping them. Ha ha! The wily felines had other plans, and worked their magic so completely that turning them away just wasn’t an option. I now realize I don’t need an actual date to celebrate the time these beautiful souls found their way into my home and heart. This is Rocky and Annabelle’s Gotcha Day tale.
It was August of 2003. I was renting an office for my freelance writing business, and the woman in the adjoining suite asked me to water her garden during her vacation. I went to her house and as she showed me her garden, she casually mentioned she had a momma cat and two kittens living in a shed. When I asked who would be taking care of them, she said they were leaving some dry food and water for the mom, and the kittens were still nursing. I still can’t fathom the mindset of asking someone to care for plants but leaving four-week-old kittens and their mom to fend for themselves!
She also said they initially had four kittens but two recently died, and she didn’t know why. I asked her to show me where the cats were, because I intended to look after them whether she thought they needed it or not. I noticed the kittens had fleas, but didn’t realize the gravity of the situation until I came back the next day. These poor kittens were being eaten alive by fleas! I suspected the other kittens had died from flea anemia, and these two looked so weak I worried they’d suffer the same fate. I took them straight to my vet, who agreed with my assessment and said they probably would’ve died in a day or two.
It’s that time of year when pesky fleas begin popping up in the home and on your pet. Planting certain garden plants around your home and in the areas where your pets wander can help deter and repel those little pests. Now is the time to plan your garden to include some plants that can help control fleas naturally.
Many of the same herbs used in cooking, baking and teas work well to help deter and repel fleas. However, not all plants are safe for use around dogs and cats. Tansy, Wormwood, Eucalyptus, Fleawort, Pennyroyal (also called Fleabane), Rue, Citronella and Sweet Bay are garden plants that can help repel fleas and they are suggested for use as natural flea control, but all of them are toxic to dogs and cats. Since most gardens are visited by neighborhood cats or dogs, it’s best to avoid using these plants in gardens or around the yard.
Mints are one of my favorite garden plants because they can be used in baking, cooking and teas, and they have a wonderful smell. I have chocolate mint growing around my dog pen and the foundation of the house. All varieties of mint work well to repel fleas. One thing I love about my chocolate mint is when one of the dogs wanders through a patch of mint, they have a minty smell that clings to them for awhile and at the same time, it repels some of the fleas on them. And if one of the dogs decides to munch on some of the mint, I know it’s safe and won’t hurt them.
Dogs scratch. Some dogs scratch a lot. Why do dogs scratch, and when should you intervene?
Let’s first talk about why dogs do not scratch. One myth is that dogs begin to itch when something changes in their diet. This is rarely the case. First, food allergies make up the smallest percentage of allergy cases in veterinary medicine; less than 10% of dogs with allergies have an allergy to food. Allergies develop over time, typically after a dog has eaten a particular food for 2 or more years.
Dogs can be itchy because of allergies though. The most common type of allergy is flea hypersensitivity, followed by atopy or inhaled allergies. Instead of coughing and sneezing, dogs get itchy when they breathe in molds or pollens that they are allergic to. Food storage mites and dust mites are known to trigger an allergic response in pets, and are found in almost every household. They thrive in dry, warm environments, like a pet food bin.
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