Awful things those pesky parasites. Both types, either internal or external need to be prevented, or treated if they occur. Most common is probably fleas. I see fewer dogs with fleas now, compared to 10-15 years ago and that is due in no small part to the excellent products that are applied topically or given as a tablet/chew treatment every month.


Fleas (the most commonly seen is Ctenocephalides felis, or the cat flea). The cat flea is the primary flea infesting dogs worldwide. Most flea activity (3/4 of their life cycle in fact) takes place OFF the animal, so by extension, if your dog has fleas, their environment does too. THIS MEANS YOUR HOME. Some dogs, though very few I would guess, will not react to flea bites. For the rest of them, even one flea causes terrible torment. This is called flea allergy dermatitis or FAD. The allergic reaction is to substances in the flea saliva, injected into the host animal when they need a blood meal. The black sandy looking material seen on the dog is flea “dirt” or faecal matter, usually a sign of a long-term infestation. The flea life cycle is in four stages and even though the eggs are actually laid on the host they filter out of the coat into the animal’s environment. So you see, merely treating your dog won’t eradicate the entire problem all at once.

How do I get rid of the pesky little things?

There are a number of ways to rid your home and your dog of fleas but you must be dedicated. Dose your dog with a tablet to help eradicate the current adult flea population and prevent further breeding from them. Products such as NexGard or Comfortis yield excellent results. It is vital you read the directions for dosage. Both products are available through veterinarians, pet shops or online.

Capstar is used for its immediate knock-down effect. It may be given at any time, usually begins to kill the fleas in around 30 minutes and is then excreted in the dog’s urine 24 hours later. May be used daily but cost could become prohibitive. I believe it is a false economy to rely solely on Capstar but I do think it is extremely useful. I often suggest this as an adjunct to other treatments where there is a heavy flea burden.

Topical treatments

Applied to the back of the neck monthly for fleas, or fortnightly for those dogs that live in paralysis tick risk areas. Some of these are a multi-strand preventative for other parasites such as heartworm, gut worm, ear mites and biting insects. Excellent product, but maybe not quite as fast acting for a somewhat urgent situation. I have noticed over time that some of the older topical flea treatments don’t seem to work as well as they did in the past, so perhaps fleas have simply become immune to their effects and have evolved past them.

What shampoo do you recommend?

Pyrethrins shampoo and rinse. I recommend a product called Fidos Flea Shampoo and Rinse. This is also used by AQIS so that is a big endorsement! Follow the directions. The rinse has a 72 hour residual action which helps repel any fleas looking for a blood meal. It also means they will look elsewhere so every animal in your home MUST be treated at the same time. Always read the label for ANY treatment because some products for dogs are toxic to cats. Check it is suitable for young animals if you have any in your home.


(I put this bit in here with fleas, as well as with the worms) If your dog has a substantial flea burden, chances are they also have tapeworm. Dose your dog with a reputable brand such as Droncit tapewormer or Drontal All wormer. Know your dogs weight to within 5 kgs, dosage is usually per 10kgs. Worming for tapeworm is particularly important if you have children around your dog.


Two ways to attack this. You can employ the services of a pest control company or do it yourself with the pesticide “bombs” purchased from the supermarket. One annoying thing to remember is that the eggs and pupae are impervious to any pesticides so you will have to re-treat about two weeks later. A decent pest control company will explain this so don’t think they are ripping you off. Flea eggs and pupae may be present in carpets and the gaps between wooden floorboards. They can be outside in sandy areas or in loose dirt. You know, those places in the garden the dog or cat like to frequent. I had a client tell me once that they had dealt with a flea problem one summer (or so she thought). Their house had been quiet and empty for about two weeks while they were away and then she arrived home. She told me she opened the front door and stepped inside onto the mat and she felt something on her skin. She looked down and there was a mass of tiny little fleas that just hatched out and jumped onto her legs! The pre-emergent fleas sense a host through the perception of warmth and vibration and wait for the opportunity for a meal. Horrid little critters, I know they probably serve a purpose but I don’t know what it is…just talking about them makes me want to scratch!

If you are using Comfortis or NexGard you COULD just wait it out. Over time, as the fleas die before they have the chance to lay any eggs and continue the breeding cycle, you will eventually be flea free. Adult fleas must have a blood meal in order to reproduce so obviously breaking that pattern is the most efficacious way to remove them. I personally would be doing everything known to man to be rid of fleas as quickly as possible, ESPECIALLY if my dog has developed a severe flea allergy.

Once you are completely rid of the flea problem, don’t let them back in! Continue to use a quality preventative treatment like Comfortis or NexGard . Comfortis only treats fleas, NexGard does fleas and ticks. If ticks are not going to be an issue you may decide to just keep your dog on Comfortis. You may notice from time to time that your dog has picked up a “hitchhiker flea”. Don’t panic! They will die and drop off before doing any damage.

Simple Solutions

1. Start as you mean to go on. Investing in a monthly control program will probably only cost about $2.50 per week for a small dog.

2. If you decide to do nothing and your dog gets fleas, treating after the event will cost waaaay more than that. Start the treatment as soon as you bring the puppy or adult dog into your home.

3. Treat ALL the animals in the home.


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