Summer! The sun is out, the days are longer and all you can notice is the blanket of hair covering your coaches, carpets and scattered along your tiled floors.
Your first thought is the dog needs to be clipped short. Not only for the sake of your house but also to help keep your dog cool for the long summer. But what if I was to tell you that not only will you have the same amount of hair floating around the house ( just shorter) but you are also hindering your dogs ability to cool itself down and in fact make him hotter.
What breeds are we talking about? These breeds include Border collies, Alaskan malamute, huskies, Pomeranians, golden retrievers, Japanese spits and many more.
The function of the coat
Your dog has two type of hair
1. The guard hairs- This is the top layer of the dogs coat. Its function is to protect your pet from external elements. It protects the skin from being sunburnt and helps reflect the suns raise, reduces bites from insects and mosqitos and reduces the amount of plants and debris penetrating the coat.
2. The under coat- this is the thick fluffy layer underneath the guard hairs and usually the cause of hair floating like tumble weeds around your house. Its function is to regulate your dogs body temperature. In the winter a thicker undercoat builds up to keep your dog warm by trapping heat to the skin and in summer the thicker layer sheds and a thinner layer replaces it and helps keep cool air close to the skin.
So what happens when we clip this type of coat?
When we clip the coat the first thing we are doing is removing the Guard hairs, taking away the dogs protection from the outside elements. Secondly we are cutting the undercoat layer short which can cause several problems. Firstly because the undercoat is not removed your dog will continue to shed around the house. Secondly clipping the undercoat can disrupt the natural cycle of the undercoat which may cause problems such as Post Clipping Alopecia (balding or patches of coat which no longer grow back). Thickening of the coat, the disruption confuses the coat and when the coat is meant to be dropping, it instead can build up increasing your dogs body temperature.
So what are the alternatives?
· The best option for your dog is to have a de-shed and a good coat conditioning. This is the removal of loose undercoat. This will reduce the amount of hair in your home while also assisting the coat in temperature regulation and still leaving behind the protective top coat.
· There is also the air conditioning strip. Clipping the underbelly and underchest can help a thick-coated dog cool off without damaging the coat, the dog can cool off by laying on a cool surface. We can also lightly trim the rear end and chest area to help assist in air floor
· If clipping your dogs coat is a must for you, a de-shed should still be performed before clipping to help keep the coat cycle as regular as possible
THE LIFE CYCLE OF A FLEA
.Adult Fleas - Adults fleas emerging from the cocoon can begin feeding immediately if a host is present. they can locate the host by visual and thermal cues. Before feeding, it pumps saliva which contains an anticoagulant onto the skin, this prevents the blood from clotting. The protein it contains can cause a severe allergic reaction in the host (causing flea allergy dermatitis). Adult fleas can survive throughout the winter on pets.
Eggs - Female fleas can produce about 40 to 50 eggs per day. Flea eggs readily fall off the pets hair into the environment. Wherever the pet spends most of its time is usually where the heaviest flea infestations is.
Larvae - Larvae hatch from eggs in one to six days given appropriate environmental conditions. Their principal food is adult flea faeces. Flea larvae are small, thin and white, measuring 1 to 2 millimeters in length. Indoors, flea larvae tend to live deep in carpeting or under furniture. Outside, they develop best in shaded areas or under leaves or similar debris. Any area of the garden where a pet seeks shelter from the heat or cold is potentially a great environment for fleas.
Pupae - A mature larva transforms into a pupa inside a silk cocoon. Under most household conditions, the adult flea will emerge in three to five weeks. However, a fully developed flea can remain inside the cocoon for up to 350 days, a reproductive strategy that enhances the flea's chance of survival. This helps to explain how a flea infestation can seemingly “explode” out of nowhere, even inside your home.
5% of fleas live in the environment as an adult, 95 % of fleas live as eggs, larvae or pupae. For effective flea control it is essential to break the lifecycle in the environment
· Egg-to-egg life cycle is usually two to four weeks. Under the right conditions this can be a little shorter (12 days), or much longer (8 months).
WHY DO FLEAS SPREAD SO QUICKLY?
Fleas breed at an enormous rate. The fleas you see on your dog represent only 5-10% of the fleas in the environment. The rest of the population is represented in the egg and larval stages found in your carpets, furniture, bedding and garden.
Ways to control fleas
Flea Control by Vacuuming
Fleas and larvae usually hide in dark spaces like deep in the carpet, corners and skirting board.
One of the things that convinces a flea that it is time to leave the cocoon and jump on a host is vibration. And a vacuum provides one hell of a vibration!
If you are going to vacuum less often than once every three days, you should probably spread diatomaceous earth all over the floor between vacuuming.
If you are experiencing a LOT of fleas, you might want to vacuum once or twice a day just to be comfortable.
Products to rid fleas on your pet
Spot on treatments - very effective, easy to apply, once a month treatments. Some products include worming or heartworm treatment as well as flea treatment. Examples of spot on treatments include Advantage, Frontline, Advantix, Advocate and Revolution.
Flea shampoo - kills fleas on your pet at the time of the bath, but once rinsed off have no lasting effect on fleas.
Rinses and sprays - vary in effectiveness, many need to be used weekly, some more often if severe flea problems are present. Rinses must be applied to a clean, mostly dry coat at the correct concentration to be effective.
Collars & Powders - are helpful, but not the most effective treatment. While it does prevent fleas around the collar you will find that the fleas are hanging around the dogs back end.
Oral treatment- such as capstar. Need to be used continuously until fleas are no longer present
For ways of ridding your homes and pets from fleas read "Treatment plan to break the flea cycle"
In order to rid fleas completely from your house, yard and pets, a treatment plan must be put in place for at least the length of the flea life cycle. Therefore a continuous treatment for the next 4 weeks or more will assist in eradicating the problem.
Garden treatment plan
-Flea larvae love dark places. Prune foliage and trim grass to expose flea larvae to sunlight. Find a way to expose dark areas to sunlight if you can.
-Wash any outdoor bedding in hot soapy water with bleach. Line dry in direct sunlight if possible. Repeat this process every 4 days
-If you have outdoor material furniture, sprinkle with Diatomaceous Earth. (DE) (Bicarbonate can also work if you cannot find this product) leave for a few hours then vacuum thoroughly. D.E or bicarb will dehydrate the eggs and larvae killing them in the process.
-Sprinkle DE or bicarb on the porch, along the house perimeter and any area where the sun does not reach. Fortunately fleas tend to live on the ground, so product application should only be on the ground, not on bushes, trees and flowers where bees might be affected. Owners should concentrate their yard efforts on the shady areas nearest the house, or anywhere their pets sleep in the yard. Repeat this process every 4 days
-Sweep out and spray outdoor kennel with flea spray ( can be purchased at pet stores) or citrus based sprays ( can be purchased at funky fur) Repeat every second day
House treatment plan
-Any material surface or bedding that can be washed, wash every 4 days in hot soapy water with bleach
-Thoroughly vacuum any carpeted areas. Repeat every second day. Sprinkling D.E or bicarb onto your carpets a couple of hours before vacuuming. Vacuum all furniture, carpets, cracks in the floor, bare floors, corners, behind doors, and anywhere else that dust collects. This will pick up most of the eggs, but larvae will latch onto carpet fibres and stick around.
-After vacuuming, immediately dispose of the vacuum bag outside to prevent escaping of larvae. If your vacuum has bags immediately spray bag with flea killer and dispose. If bag less empty and wash the cylinder in hot water immediately after vacuuming. Adding a drop of pure lemongrass oil or eucalyptus to the filters will deter fleas from the vacuum and add a nice smell in the air.
Pet treatment plan
-There are many treatments for your pet, the best being spot treatment such as revolution. Although they work for small amount of fleas, some fleas can build immunity to these products and if there is an infestation in your yard or house reinfestation to your pet can still occur. There are also oral applications such as capstar. Flea collars are not usually effective.
-Detergent removes the fleas protective layer causing them to drown. Washing your pet in a strong dishwashing liquid will help kill fleas by following these steps.
1. add just enough water to the detergent to make a spreadable paste
2. place your pet in the sink but do not wet your pet ( wetting the pet will allow the fleas to place a protective bubble around themselves)
3. add the detergent solution to your pet starting at the neck and ears and working your way down the pets body
4. let the solution sit on the dog for 5 min
5. scrub coat and rinse thoroughly make sure all soap is removed
6. if you still see fleas moving follow with a second scrub
7. As detergent strips a lot of natural oils from your dogs coat make sure you follow with a good conditioner. An oatmeal conditioner will help relieve any itching from flea bites or dry skin
-The main areas fleas like to hang around on your pet are in the joints such as armpits and groin, their belly and under their tail, around their bottom area. Have a container next to you with water and detergent in it. Use a flea comb to remove any flea from these areas and drop them into the container to drown them. Repeat every day or until fleas are no longer visible, and then every three days to make sure they are gone
- If there is more then one pet in the household make sure all pets are fleaed at the same time so the product is effective.
Please note that these processes should be kept up for at least four weeks even if you no longer see fleas. This is to make sure you have rid your pets and household of any flea eggs or larvae which can later cause a reinfestation. If you are in a flea prone area following these procedures once a week will decrease the likelihood of reinfestation
As a loving pet owner, you take excellent care of your companion dog. You feed it well, take it to the Veterinarian for annual care, and share your heart and home with it. Keeping your pet looking its best is important too. Here are some tips and tricks to help you maintain your dog’s appearance.
Bianca is the owner and groomer at Funky Fur dog grooming and always looking for ways to help you care for your pet.