Health care


Fleas are tiny insects that irritate our dogs by biting them. The dog then starts biting or licking itself, trying to get rid of the fleas. This can result in bald, raw patches or rashes. Fleas use the dog as a host, sucking blood.


The female flea can lay 2000 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs fall off and lie dormant wherever the dog has been – in the bed, on the carpet, chairs, floor and garden. Regular sweeping, washing and vacuuming of the dog’s environment will help get rid of eggs. Larvae emerge from the eggs which eat the dirt in the surroundings, then turn into pupae. From the pupae emerges the adult flea, which jumps on the dog and the circle starts again.

One can sometimes find nests of fleas, especially behind the neck where the dog cannot groom itself. Another sign is black specks, which is dried blood. This may turn red when the dog is bathed.

Fleas also attack humans, leaving small red itchy spots. They are hard to catch as they can jump. They are a host for tapeworm, which can affect your dog, if they swallow a flea.

In South Africa, the winter is not cold enough to kill all the fleas, so we need to take precautions all year round. There are many remedies on the market – dips, powders and liquids. Your vet will advise. There are also sprays available to spray the house and garden. This kills larvae.

Flea control challenges: rumour and reality

By veterinarian Dr. Dean S.

According to academic Prof. Michael Dryden of the college of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, there are three main goals for an integrated approach to achieving flea control. They are:

  • Relieving pet of its current discomfort – kill fleas currently residing on your pet.
  • Eliminating the premise infestation – kill immature life stages and emerging fleas.
  • Prevention – provide for long term flea control to prevent recurrence of an infestation.

The failure of long term control appears to be the single most important contributor to the breakdown in flea control programs. Most pet owners run into trouble because they stop treating for fleas when they stop seeing fleas on their pet. If one considers that only 5% of the flea problem resides upon the pet, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that treating only at this level is like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon.

The following case study illustrates commonly held misconceptions:

A young couple with a nine month old baby brings in their one year old dog because it has fleas. Vet A treats the dog with Frontline Plus (containing a flea killer and an insect growth regulator or IGR) and sends them home with a six month supply of the product, assuring them that, AS LONG AS THEY KEEP USING IT, their flee problems will soon be over.

One week later there are still fleas in the home and on the dog so they go to Vet B, complaining that Vet A ripped them off by selling them an expensive dud. Their friends have told them (incorrectly) that fleas are resistant to Frontline and every other new generation flea killer on the market. Worse still, since they stopped letting the dog into the baby’s room, the baby is now being attacked by fleas.

Vet B runs a flea comb through the fur and recovers 10 fleas. None of them appear to be fully engorged and none of the females appear to be actively reproducing. This would indicate that none of these fleas have been on the dog for more than a few hours and certainly less than 24 hours. Considering that it takes female fleas at least 24 hours of feeding to become reproductively active, and the stated purpose of the product is to kill newly acquired fleas before they have a chance to reproduce (within 24hrs), Vet B declares his colleague to be innocent of the charges and the product sold to them to be doing what it is intended to do.

As for the fact that there appears to be more fleas than a week ago, Vet B explains that the fleas seen now come from the eggs laid three to eight weeks ago. “Oh no, Doc, the dog never had fleas then!” More than 90% of pet owners never see the first two or three fleas that their pets acquire outdoors. The females then begin laying eggs after 24hrs and carry on laying 50 eggs per day for up to 40 days. Those 2000 eggs per female have emerged to become the generation of fleas now being seen!

“But why are we seeing fleas in baby’s room? Fido hasn’t been in there for weeks, ever since we started seeing fleas on the dog!”

They removed Fido from the baby’s room thinking incorrectly that fleas would jump off the dog and onto the baby. The fleas in the carpet in the bedroom came from eggs laid up to eight weeks ago. They took the ‘living flea vacuum’ ie the treated pet, out of the room, so emerging fleas had no alternative but to feed on the only remaining warm blooded host available – Baby! All they needed to do is let Frontlined Fido back into the room to take care of business! That’s what they paid for!

Contact me:

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Office information:

1 Rouen Road
Port Elizabeth
South Africa

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Elzette Robinson

Cell:  (083) 261 5372


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