Chihuahua Puppy ~ Continued Care ~ Fleas!

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There's no other way to put it - fleas are blood-sucking ectoparasites (they live on the skin surface of their 'host').

Pets most often affected

Both cats and dogs

What is a flea?

Fleas are blood-sucking ectoparasites. There are 2,200 flea species known in the world today. Only a few of these commonly infest cats and dogs. Fleas are not the same as ticks. The most common flea that affects both cats and dogs is the cat flea, or Ctenocephalides felis. Its dark brown or black body is about one to three millimetres long. They can also feed on people, but we're not their first choice of meal.

Why do cats and dogs get fleas?

Fleas love warm, humid environments. And they are determined, nimble creatures capable of Olympian feats. When they're hungry and looking for a home, they can jump 10,000 times in a row up to 60 centimetres high. Plus their flat bodies allow them to move quickly through a cat or dog's fur. You'll usually find fleas on the abdomen, the base of the tail and the head. However, a heavy infestation can thrive anywhere on the body.

What are common signs that my pet has fleas?

You may be able to see fleas on your pet, especially if there is a large burden Fleas are small, and just because you don't find one on your pet, it doesn't mean that they're not there or that your pet is not being bitten by them! Fleas suck your pet's blood and can cause terrible skin irritation that will make your pet scratch, lick and bite themself. This may result in rashes, scaly skin, hot spots and hair loss Droppings, digested blood known as flea dirt, in your pet's coat

The 4 life cycle stages of a flea

Adult fleas (5% of lifecycle):

are the ones you see moving around your pet's coat bite then feed on the blood of their host male and female adult fleas mate and lay eggs

Flea eggs (50% of lifecycle):

are not sticky and once laid quickly fall off the pet into the surrounding environment can't be readily seen with the naked eye take between 1-10 days to hatch into larvae

Flea larvae (35% of lifecycle):

hatch from the flea eggs are a small worm-like lifeform that move away from the light bury themselves in dark places e.g. deep in carpet pile, cracks in floorboards, etc. last 5-11 days while they undergo 2 moults to become a pupa (cocoon)

Flea pupae (10% of lifecycle):

are in a sticky impenetrable cocoon that becomes covered in debris cannot be killed by insecticides. usually lasts 5-14 days, but may lay dormant for up to 6 months

What do fleas do to cats and dogs?

Adult fleas have specially adapted mouth parts for piercing the skin and sucking blood. More than just annoying and irritating to your dog, they can also cause significant skin disease. Flea blood feeding is also associated with the transmission of several infectious diseases to both pets and people in Australia.

What is flea allergy dermatitis (FAD)?

It's an itchy skin disease animals develop from an allergic reaction to the saliva of fleas feeding on their blood. An affected pet will be very itchy - often from scratching, biting, licking and chewing. Their skin is usually reddened and there may be lesions and hair loss.

Infectious diseases from fleas

It's not just your pet at risk here. Fleas can carry infectious diseases that are transmitted to humans such as:

Rickettsia spp. ~ causes flea-borne spotted fever

Bartonella henselae ~ causes cat scratch fever

Yersinia pestis ~ causes Plague, an identified agent of bioterrorism.

Fleas can cause numerous problems, and if you don't know how to treat them effectively, they can be extremely difficult to get rid of. In addition to irritating bites, fleas can carry and transmit bacteria that cause disease. The key to eliminating them lies in knowing which prevention and treatment methods are most effective during the different stages of a flea's life cycle. It's also important to understand that in addition to treating pets, you must eliminate fleas from your house and yard to prevent reinfestation. Use the following questions to help plan an effective flea-control strategy:

* What types of flea-control products are available?

* How can you prevent and/or remove fleas from your pet?

* How should you treat fleas in your home? In your yard?

* What treatments are most effective during each stage of a flea's life cycle?

Pet Treatments, Indoors, Outdoors and Flea Life Cycle

The first step in getting rid of fleas is to treat infested pets. This helps you begin to get the problem under control while providing relief for your dog or cat. You'll also need to eliminate fleas in your home, starting with your pet's sleeping area and any other places where he or she frequently rests or plays. Finally, you'll have to carefully inspect your yard and take measures to eliminate larger populations of fleas that might lead to reinfection. Some chemicals kill fleas directly while others prevent larvae from becoming adults (insect growth regulators, or IGR) or stop eggs from hatching (insect development inhibitors, or IDI). Fleas only bite during their adult stage, but they can be eliminated at every stage of their life cycle by employing various treatments.

Pet Treatments: When you notice fleas on your pet for the first time, you have a number of different treatment options from which to choose. Use a fine-toothed, metal flea comb to remove adult fleas from your pet and flick them into soapy water where they will drown. Bathing pets in special flea baths and shampoos may not make them especially happy, but it will remove both eggs and live fleas. Spot-on treatments are applied between your pet's shoulders and protect them from getting new fleas for a month or more, depending on the strength of the product and the size of your pet. Flea collars help deter new fleas as well, though you'll want to use other treatments concurrently for maximum effectiveness. Systemic treatments are oral medications that are usually taken monthly and prevent flea eggs that have been laid on your pet from hatching.

* Read instructions carefully to ensure a particular treatment is safe for your pet

* Do not treat newborn puppies or kittens or pregnant animals

* Healthy cats and dogs resist fleas more easily, so take good care of your pet

* Sprays can be applied directly to pets to kill adult fleas

* Look for versatile treatments that deter fleas, ticks and other parasites

* Some oral medications also prevent heartworms and intestinal worms

Home: Treating your pet will go a long way toward solving your flea problem, but you must treat your home to prevent your pet from attracting more pests. Thoroughly vacuum areas where your pets spend most of their time, particularly where they sleep. Fleas can escape from vacuum bags, so seal them in a plastic bag and dispose of them immediately after vacuuming. Be sure to treat baseboards, windows, door frames and other areas fleas may try to hide. Once fleas have been removed, continue to vacuum consistently to reduce the chances of another buildup.

* Foggers, powders and sprays can be used to kill fleas and inhibit growth

* Vacuum after application of treatment to remove fleas that emerge from carpeting

* Steam clean carpets and apply flea treatment afterward for maximum effectiveness

* Wash pets bedding, throw rugs and pillows to destroy fleas and eggs

Yard: Failing to treat a large flea population in your yard can undo all of the hard work you've done inside your house and with your pet. Remove dead plants and other debris where fleas can hide and breed. Use sprays to treat areas where your pet rests frequently, such as patios, along foundations and under porches. You may need to reapply sprays after rainstorms to renew efficacy. Avoid using products containing harmful chemicals, as they can pollute nearby water supplies when washed away by storms or irrigation. Regular watering and lawn maintenance combined with a healthy dose of sunshine should prove effective in controlling fleas in your yard.

* Treat damp areas that are protected from sunlight, such as crawl spaces

* Remove foliage to allow sunlight into shady areas to inhibit flea growth

* Screen off damp, shady areas to prevent your pet from accessing them

* Outdoor treatments are available in spray, granule, concentrate and powder form

Life Cycle: Different treatments work better during different stages of a flea's life cycle. Using a combination of treatments will prove most effective. Consult the chart below to learn which treatments should be used during various stages.

Stage, Description, Effective Treatments:


* Smooth and white ~ * Laid in pet's sleeping areas ~ * Hatch every few days ~ * Systemic treatments (oral) ~ * IDI sprays ~ * Vacuuming ~ * Flea collars


* Blind, limbless worms ~ * Very mobile ~ * Feed on debris left in nest ~ * Foggers ~ * Vacuuming ~ * IGR sprays

It is always a good idea to alternate the chemicals being used for your flea treatment throughout the year as the flea population you are trying to eradicate can and WILL become immune after time to the same chemical.

Topical and Oral Preventives

  Bio Spot
for Dogs
Program Capstar
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No

Yes No Yes Yes Yes No No
Repels &

West Nile
Yes No Yes No No No No
Dosage Monthly Monthly Monthly Monthly Monthly Monthly One-Time
6 months
& older
For Dogs
> 7 wks
7 wks
& older
8 wks
& older
8 wks
& older
& Cats
6 wks
& older
& Cats
4 wks
& older
2 lbs
or more
thrin & Imidac-
Fipronil Fipronil
Lufenuron Niten-

De-Fleaing very young puppies and Pregnant/nursing mommies

You can use DeFlea Ready to Use Shampoo, or DeFlea Concentrated Shampoo. They're safe for use on all puppies, even nursing animals. It's the only product I was able to find that can be used in puppies that are very young.

Your veterinarian might be able to provide you with other products that can be used on 2 week old puppies.

I've read that you can treat a puppy under 6 weeks of age for fleas by bathing them using warm water and Dawn dish-washing detergent, and then to manually pick off remaining fleas. Dawn dish-washing soap is very effective and it kills fleas quickly. Fill your sink or tub with warm water. (Test temperature as if you were giving a baby a bath). Using the kitchen sink is often easiest as you don't have to bend down and you are more in control. Immerse the puppy up to his neck and insure that he is saturated. Then lift him out and place him on a towel. Gently massage in the detergent. Massage the soap all over his body and around his neck, ears, head and under his chin, being very careful not to get soap in his eyes. The fleas are not silly and will head for the high dry ground of the head area.

Then put him back in the water for a rinse. If he is not fighting and struggling too much try to keep him submerged for a few minutes. If he is distressed get the job over and done as quickly as possible. Having two people perform the operation is often easier. One to hold the puppy and one to massage and wash the the puppy. When finished wrap him up in a dry towel and dry him off. Try to do this in a warm atmosphere and don't let him get cold.

Flea combs are very inexpensive and usually quite effective in catching fleas that still remain on the puppy after his bath. While the puppy is still damp comb over his body with a flea comb or pick off the remaining live fleas with you finger and thumb nails while they are struggling to get through the damp hair. Have a cup of boiling water ready to drop the fleas into as you catch them. Boiling water is more effective than cold water.

In addition to the bathing, keeping a flea trap near where the puppies are kept can help. You can probably find flea traps at larger pet stores and possibly lawn and garden stores, or you can make one. Here are instructions on how to make a flea trap:

If the fleas continue to be a problem, Capstar flea treatment is safe for very young puppies that are still nursing. It can be given to puppies 4 weeks and older, weighing 2 pounds or more. You have to get Capstar from your vet. Defend is an over the counter product that kills and repels adult fleas, however like Capstar it can't be used on puppies younger than 4 weeks.

It is not sufficient to treat just the puppies for fleas, you must also treat your house. If you have an understanding of the flea cycle you will know that only 5% of fleas in your environment are actually living on the pet. The other 95% in the form of eggs, larvae and pupae are living in your house or/and yard. For example, if you catch 10 fleas on the puppies then at a rough estimate there are approximately 190 fleas developing and maturing in your house. Read about clearing your house of fleas here:

Many pet owners ask if they can use two or more flea and tick products simultaneously on their pet. We generally recommend using only one flea and tick control product on the pet at a time. In the past, more than one product was often needed if you wanted to kill both the adult and developing fleas but today, many of the newer flea and tick products that kill adult fleas and ticks also prevent flea eggs and larvae from developing, so only one product is needed.

However, there are some situations in which using two products together on the pet may be more effective. An example would be tick prevention in a heavily tick-infested area. In such cases, we might recommend using two products - such as a topical and a tick collar - if they are administered differently and have different mechanisms of action. Here are some ground rules:

  • Do NOT use two topicals together.
  • We do NOT recommend using more than two flea and tick products together on a pet.
  • Flea and tick dips should always be used alone. The usual method is to bathe, dip, and wait a week before repeating the procedure. If you feel the need to re-dip your pet more often, please consult your veterinarian.

The combinations included in the following chart are guidelines. They should be safe for most pets, however, every animal is different and two animals can react very differently to the same product. If you have any questions, or if a pet is old, sick, pregnant, or nursing, you should talk with your veterinarian before using more than one product.

Any flea and tick product listed in the chart below can be used along with a heartworm preventive, such as Heartgard, Interceptor, or Sentinel. (Note: Sentinel is actually Interceptor plus Program.) The rapidly growing selection of flea prevention products may be confusing to the average pet owner. We believe that the more understanding a pet owner has about these products, the more success he will have in making the right product selection.

Compatibility of Flea and Tick Products for Cats and Dogs
Note: Some products listed below cannot be used on cats, see Active Ingredients in Flea & Tick Products.

Adams Collar Advantage bioSpot SPOT ON for Cats* bioSpot SPOT ON for Dogs Capstar De Flea Shampoo and Spray Defend Flea Halt Towelettes* Frontline Plus Frontline Top Spot Gentle Touch K9 Advantix Preventic Plus Collar Program Pyrethrin Containing Products** Revolution Sentinel


- N N N Y Y N N M M M N N Y N M Y

Advantage for Cats

N - N N Y Y N N N N N N M Y N N Y

Bio Spot SPOT ON
for Cats*

N N - N Y Y N Y* N N N N N Y Y* N Y

Bio Spot SPOT ON
for Dogs

N N N - Y Y N N N N N N M Y N N Y


Y Y Y Y - Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y


N N N N Y Y - N N N N N M Y N N Y

Plus for Dogs & Cats

M N M N Y Y N N - N N N M Y N M Y

Top Spot for Dogs & Cats

M N N N Y Y N N N - N N M Y N M Y


N N N N Y Y N N N N N - M Y N N Y

Plus Collar

N M N M Y Y M M M M M M - Y M M Y

for Dogs &Cats

Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y - Y N Y

Pyrethrin Containing Products**

N N Y* N Y Y N N N N N N M Y - N Y

for Dogs
& Cats

N N N N Y Y N N M M N N M N N - N


Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N -
Y = Yes; in healthy animals, these products can generally be used together safely.

M = Maybe. These products have not been approved by the manufacturer for use together, and no information on the safety of using them together is available

N = No. We do not recommend using these products together. Both products may contain similar ingredients, or there may be a risk of an interaction between them. Consult with your veterinarian if you have questions.

*If Bio Spot SPOT ON for Cats is used with the Flea Halt Towelettes, do not use any other product with it. NOTE: Flea Halt Towelettes are now labeled to be used for fleas and ticks in cats, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils. For cats and ferrets, use the liquid plus the towelette, for the others just the towelette.

**Pyrethrin containing products include Adams Flea & Tick Dip, Adams Flea & Tick Mist, Bio Spot Flea & Tick Mist with Nylar for Cats, Bio Spot Flea & Tick Spray for Dogs, Drs. Foster & Smith Flea & Tick Shampoo, Flys Off Spray, Flys Off Ointment, Mosquito Halt for Dogs, PreStrike Mosquito Repellent for Dogs, and Flea Halt Towelettes.

There are more flea and tick products available today than ever before. Provided below is a brief description of the various categories of active ingredients found in today's flea and tick preventives. Also see our Flea & Tick Product Comparison Chart, which provides a more detailed overview of products containing these ingredients.

Pyrethrins -
Pyrethrins, made from extracts of chrysanthemum flowers, have been in use for over 100 years and are one of the most common ingredients in flea and tick control products. Pyrethrins affect the nervous system of insects by influencing the flow of sodium out of nerve cells. This results in repeated nerve firing, and the insect dies. Pyrethrins are used to control ticks, fleas, lice, and mosquitoes.

Pyrethroids (permethrin, phenothrin, etofenprox, fenvalorate) -
Pyrethroids are synthetic relatives of natural pyrethrins. They are made in a laboratory and have a longer-lasting effect than pyrethrins. Examples of pyrethroids include permethrin (found in Bio Spot SPOT ON for Dogs and K9 Advantix) and etofenprox (found in Bio Spot SPOT ON for Cats). Pyrethroids are often used in the environment to kill and repel ticks, fleas, lice, and mosquitoes. Many pyrethroids cannot be used on cats, so be sure to check the label for safety. Etofenprox (Bio Spot SPOT ON Cats) is a pyrethroid that is labeled safe to use on cats.

Fipronil -
Fipronil (found in Frontline and Frontline Plus) is the most commonly used ingredient in a relatively new group of synthetic insecticides called arylheterocycles. These compounds block the passage of chlorine through cells in the insect's nervous system, causing paralysis. In Frontline and Frontline Plus, fipronil is mixed with an oil carrier, and collects in the sebaceous (oil) glands of the skin, then is slowly released. Because of this, it is water-resistant. Fipronil gives excellent protection against ticks, and adult fleas, but does not prevent flea eggs and larvae from developing. For protection against all stages of the flea life cycle, we recommend Frontline Plus, which contains fipronil plus the Insect Growth Regulator methoprene, described below.

Insect Growth Regulators (methoprene, pyriproxyfen (Nylar), fenoxycarb) -
Insect Growth Regulators (IGR's) differ from traditional flea product ingredients because their main activity is against the immature forms of the flea, not the adults. IGR's mimic juvenile growth hormone, a substance that keeps the flea from developing. Normally, juvenile growth hormone decreases over time and the flea eggs and larvae mature. IGR's keep this development from occurring and the immature fleas fail to molt and they die. Insect growth regulators are found in products such asFrontline Plus, bioSpot SPOT ON for Dogs, and bioSpot SPOT ON Cats. Because IGR's do not kill adult fleas, it is important to make sure that the product you are using also contains an adulticide.

Insect Development Inhibitors (lufenuron, diflubenzuron) -
Insect Development Inhibitors (IDI's) inhibit the synthesis of a substance called chitin. Chitin is necessary for the formation of the hard outside layer (cuticle) of the flea. Without chitin, flea eggs and larvae cannot develop normally, and they die. IDI's are found in the flea preventive Program. Program is not effective against adult fleas, or against ticks, but it can be used with an adulticide (such as Frontline) for full protection.

Methylcarbamate -
Carbamate insecticides function by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme necessary for normal nerve function. The insect's nerves continue to fire repeatedly, and it dies.

Imidacloprid -
Imidacloprid (found in Advantage and K9 Advantix) interferes with the nerve conduction system of insects, by blocking the insects' nerve receptors. It kills fleas but does not have activity against ticks. Therefore, the dog productK9 Advantix also contains an ingredient (permethrin) that works against ticks. Advantage may be used on cats or dogs, but K9 Advantix should NOT be used on cats.

Amitraz -
Amitraz is an ingredient that is used as a dip to treat demodectic mange. It has also been shown to be highly effective as an ingredient in canine tick collars, such as Preventic collars. Most ticks are killed by Amitraz before they attach or if they do attach, they are killed in less than 24 hours, thus preventing the transfer of Lyme disease. Do NOT use Amitraz on cats.

Selamectin -
Selamectin is the active ingredient in the prescription product Revolution. Selamectin kills parasites by blocking nerve signal transmission. Revolution is absorbed through the skin and enters the bloodstream, where it protects against heartworm disease. It passes into the gastrointestinal tract where it kills certain parasites, and passes onto the hair and skin providing protection against fleas, flea eggs and certain types of mites and ticks.

Nitenpyram -
Nitenpyram is the active ingredient in Capstar, an oral flea control product. Capstar starts killing adult fleas on your pet within 30 minutes. It can be used on pregnant or nursing dogs and cats, and is safe for puppies and kittens 4 weeks and older. It can be very useful in situations such as prior to surgery, boarding or grooming or after a trip to the park. However, it will not work for ongoing control as the medication is out of the animal's system within 24 hours. Therefore, we recommend following up a day later with an application of Frontline Plus.

Citrus Extracts (Linalool, d-limonene) -
Citrus extracts are derived from the fresh peels of citrus fruits, and have an effect on the nervous system of insects.

Synergists (piperonyl butoxide, N-octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide (MGK 264)) -
Synergists are compounds that help to increase the effectiveness of another active ingredient in a product. For example, piperonyl butoxide helps slow degradation of pyrethrins by the insect's metabolism. Both piperonyl butoxide and N-octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide are used to enhance the effectiveness of pyrethrins.