Not Only Itchy, a Real Health Hazard

In the old days, fleas were hard to control and were a constant tormentor of people and dogs. In fact, one of the reasons the Doberman was originally bred with a short coat was flea prevention.

These tiny jumpy creatures irritate the dog’s skin and cause him to scratch and chew at the irritated spots. This scratching and chewing only increases irritation and can cause infections as well as other coat and skin problems.

Besides being an irritant, fleas also spread tapeworm. In an effort to rid himself of the fleas, the dog consumes them. Here, the larva within the fleas are then able to set up residence in the intestine.

Fighting Fleas

Currently, we have two effective flea fighting tools. One is an oral pill taken monthly called Program®. It works by disrupting the life cycle of the flea by causing the flea larva not to develop an important tooth that allows them to exit the egg.

The other method is also a life-cycle-disruptor. It is a liquid placed on the dog’s skin on the back between the shoulders and on the back near the tail. It is made by a few different companies but it’s best to get the more reliable formulas from name brand companies, such as the treatments sold under the names Advantage® and Frontline Plus®. This solution spreads over the skin, stays on even after bathing, and causes fleas to die after they bite the dog. These products will continue protection for one month. This type of flea control should not be used on breeding dogs.

If fleas and ticks are a problem, Frontline Plus® controls both! Or, what I like to use on my Dobermans is K9 Advantix®. It controls fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes.

The old methods of flea control such as flea collars and dips are thankfully no longer needed.

Flea Infestation

Prevention by life cycle disruption is one thing. Removing a flea infestation is a whole other terrible task and is why prevention is so important. Once fleas have infested a dog, they will move into the house. Once they are in the home, especially homes with carpet, they are hard to get rid of.

The strength of a flea infestation is in its life cycle. The life cycle of a flea is similar to a butterfly but has five stages.

  1. The flea lays eggs. These eggs drop to the ground or floor. A normal female flea will feed two or three times after finding a host before she begins producing eggs. Once she starts she can lay about 50 eggs a day and has a life span of 2 to 3 weeks. So, one female can produce as many as a thousand eggs under ideal conditions in three weeks. These eggs look like large grains of salt.
  2. Within each egg is a caterpillar-like larva. Once developed, this larva uses a special tooth to cut its way out of the protective egg. The larva then crawls around on the ground, or in the carpet, feeding on any scraps of nutrients it can find. Fleas have a little trick to ensure their children get plenty of nutrients even in a home with the strictest housekeeping regiment. They feed heavily on the host, you and your Doberman, so heavily that they consume far more nutrients than their menacing little flea bodies can absorb. This causes them to produce nutrient rich feces, which drop to the floor. The larva finds these feces and is ensured to grow up strong.
  3. Once fully grown, the larva constructs a cocoon out of dirt and debris. This is one of the toughest parts about getting rid of an infestation. The larva’s cocoon is impervious to insecticide and is happy to wait several weeks until a suitable host happens by.
  4. Sensing heat or vibration of a passing animal, the now nearly developed flea will leap from its cocoon and land upon the host.
  5. Once on the host, the flea begins feeding and so enters maturity where it can continue the cycle by breeding and laying its own eggs.

Curing a Flea Infestation

Curing a flea infestation can be done with one of the life-cycle-disruptors described above. However, if the infestation is severe and fleas are biting, patience can easily run thin. Waiting the three or four weeks for the broken life cycle to decimate the flea population may not be seen as an option. In this case, insecticides are in order.

For infestations outside that are especially bad, your Doberman should be kept out of these areas and these areas should be sprayed with insecticide. Your Doberman should stay safe inside the home with you, even if he is still dealing with fleas. There is no reason to exile a flea infested Doberman from the home. The liquid life-cycle-disruptors that are applied to the skin kills fleas immediately and will cure his infestation in 12 hours. Remember, the fleas will only feed on you if he is not around. Also, he’s having a tough time and needs his family’s support.

If fleas are being brought into the area by other animals additional measures should be taken in addition to the life cycle disruptors. These measures can include commercial sprays and reorganizing the area.