The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

March 18, 2013

Ryan Richardson: Tackling fleas starts with a good bath

JOPLIN, Mo. — When I woke up this morning, I popped out of my apartment building and noticed how amazingly beautiful it is.

After checking my phone, it hit me that spring is finally here, and that is fantastic. I love this time of year because it means that I can take my dog out for a long run and it won't end with her getting too cold or hot.

But then I recalled the nightmare of last year. It was hot early and it was dry, which wasn't the only problem. As many owners of outside pets discovered, the heat and dryness meant that there was an unparalleled flea and tick problem.

My dog battled it most of last summer, and my mom's cats had the same issue. It was a nightmare to deal with and I hated taking my dog out because of it.

This time of year can be dangerous and it can perpetuate itself all summer long. So I culled some of the stuff that I did last summer in my battle against this annoyance. Trust me, I tried almost everything to stop the scratching. Hopefully, these tips help you out.

¥ Make sure that your pets have been groomed recently. Besides the fact that they will naturally shed their thicker coats from winter, they are going to want to keep cooler.

This will help you out in additional ways too, including being able to de-flea your pets quicker. Less hair equals fewer areas for the little things to hide.

¥ Get yourself a flea and tick comb. It looks like a small, metal brush that has a grip behind it.

There are two important things to look at: Make sure the bristles are metal and that the handle is a color besides black. Non-metal combs won't be able to brush through the hair properly and you will not get through any tangles that can develop.

The handle color should be something besides black because when you do pull out a flea, you will have a poor time seeing anything you have pulled out. White or silver works the best. You can do this on dry or wet hair and what you pull out may tell you what you are dealing with.

If you do find fleas, I suggest moving towards a flea bath before trying medication. It will be cheaper and it will be a more natural process to help your pets out.

A lot of suggestions pointed me towards using dish soap, which I found to be a waste of time and somewhat harmful to my dog. It didn't work properly and my dog's skin was dried out after the second bath she received. My dog was already scratching because of the fleas and her skin was quickly paying the price.

I made an investment at my local pet store and bought some dedicated pet shampoo that was a natural alternative. It was a mixture of cinnamon, sesame and clove oils.

In addition to making her smell 10 times better, I was finding less fleas with each comb pass and they were smaller than before. That was because they weren't fully-grown because I was getting to them earlier. The soap was killing the eggs and with a thoroughly dedicated washing, she was having less scratching issues.

Two baths later she was clean and flea-less, finally, but that wasn't the end of the problem. She was still coming back with adult fleas every time we came back from a walk. That's because she was still picking them up in our yard.

Next week, I will give an outline on tackling outdoor issues. While you can't control every yard your pet may get in to, taking care of your yard can help your pet out and keep the fleas off of you pet and out of your home.

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