Do I need to use flea prevention now that we are home in the high desert
August 3, 2014 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Should I actively treat our dog, who seems to have acquired fleas on a recent oceanside vacation, now that we are home in our dry climate?

---Our Queensland heeler/Jack Russell terrier, Tully, traveled with us recently to the Pacific coast for a week, and to one of the Great Lake states for another week. Since we've been back home in our high desert climate, I've noticed him scratching at fleas. Fleas are not a problem here due to dryness and altitude.

Should I actively treat him with natural remedies to get rid of the fleas, or will the problem resolve itself?

Thanks for all your help, metafilter members!
posted by ragtimepiano to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
If he's home and still scratching, it seems that the environment is not hostile enough to kill those fleas, so you had best treat them with something that works before they breed a nice altitude-and-dryness-resistant colony. Fleas are miserable pests to have, and I'm sure your poor dog would appreciate you helping sooner rather than later, as well as preventative efforts on future travels.
posted by teremala at 10:42 AM on August 3, 2014

Not only would I treat the dog, but I would treat your home, too. Fleas lay eggs on the dog, then the eggs fall off and hatch in your rug, carpet, upholstery, etc. Fleas that may not thrive outside may still thrive inside. There are several good natural, low-toxicity solutions for treating your home - borax, diatomaceous earth, or a mix of salt and baking soda all work by dehydrating adult fleas and larvae.

Another thing you may need to worry about traveling on the pacific coast/great lakes is heartworm, which is transmitted by mosquitoes.
posted by muddgirl at 10:48 AM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

This question is impossible to answer without a picture. Having said that, I suggest you treat Tully now to save him from what could be weeks of misery while nature takes its course (assuming it does).
posted by Maisie at 11:07 AM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

He could well have picked up fleas or flea eggs during your travels. If you do not treat him for fleas the problem will only get worse. Fleas can survive & florish in a desert environments as they will be living in your house and pets bedding and not outside. Even then desert environments don't eliminate fleas only make things harder for them.

I would also follow muddgirls suggestions about looking into possible heartworm treatments by talking to your vet, some areas around the Great Lakes are having serious heartworm incident increases in the past year or so.
posted by wwax at 11:12 AM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not only would I treat the dog, but I would treat your home, too.

If your dog is scratching at fleas, it's a given that the fleas are now making a home in, well, your home. We did this a couple of years ago when our cat somehow became flea-infested. It's totally a DIY project and it's not that hard, but you need to be obsessively thorough about it.

FWIW, we tried, at first, the popular natural approaches, but ended up going the chemical route.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:13 AM on August 3, 2014

I unfortunately don't know of any "natural" remedies that actually work on dogs. You'll probably need to go the chemical route.

If fleas typically aren't a problem where you live, you might not need regular prevention but you'll need to do something about the current infestation. You can get a pill from your vet called Capstar that will immediately kill all the fleas currently on the dog. You'll also need to treat the house.
posted by radioamy at 11:16 AM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes, treat him now and for a few months until you're sure they're gone. My indoor cat somehow got fleas when we lived in the high desert and it did not at all resolve itself, and in fact turned into an ongoing many-month-long nightmare. Throw everything you can at this to nip it in the bud if at all possible.
posted by something something at 11:27 AM on August 3, 2014

Revolution, which is hard to get anywhere but from the vet for some reason -- in fact, I suggest calling and asking the vet's office if they've got it on hand. This treats for both fleas and tapeworm, but might require a followup treatment in about six weeks. Fleas, even if they don't infest your home, may lead to your pet adopting himself a tapeworm. Your pet eats the fleas, the tapeworm finds a nice tummy to live up in, and poor Tully ends up with tiny white noodles wriggling out his butt. Continue to watch for it after the first Revolution treatment, since the first treatment will kill the fleas but not necessarily remove them all from Tully's coat. A bath and thorough combing out may also help with preventing a tapeworm infection if it hasn't already taken root. Good luck to both you and Tully!
posted by brina at 1:13 PM on August 3, 2014

Revolution is prescription (because it contains heartworm preventative), which is why you have to get it from your vet.

Yes, you need to treat your dog for at least 3-4 months to get rid of the fleas in your home environment. Use Frontline Plus or Advantage. No natural remedies actually work IME, and aren't tested or proven safe to boot. Going forward, you may not have an ongoing problem, but you have one now, and you need to treat for 3-4 months to make sure you get all the lifestages of the fleas. I don't think you need to bother treating your home, other than by vacuuming every day and washing all possible bedding in hot water once a week, modern flea topical treatments basically turn the pet into the exterminator.
posted by biscotti at 4:49 PM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I live in a dry climate where fleas are not normally a problem, and my dogs have several times brought fleas back from the Oregon coast. Twice they were mildly infested and once they were both full of flea dirt and eggs, totally gross. In every instance completely solved the problem by doing the following:

1. Give a Capstar (kills live fleas within 20 minutes and is the safest flea medication)
2. While live fleas are dying, give a vigorous bath (kills and washes out eggs)
3. Throw dog outside and bag up all textiles (to keep eggs/hatching fleas from undoing the next step); start laundering these items
4. Vacuum the hell out of the house and continue to vacuum once a day for at least a week. Get in all the cracks by the baseboards--flea eggs roll around (gets rid of eggs that have fallen off dog)
5. When dog is dry, powder him lightly with food grade diatomaceous earth, trying to get it down to the skin (kills any hatching fleas and damages the eggs)

This is requires as little effort but is SO much safer than the spot-ons and has been completely successful for me.
posted by HotToddy at 5:16 PM on August 3, 2014

Probably too late to this party, but I'd treat by giving the dog regular baths, and by vacuuming the house often to catch any new fleas Shampoo gets rid of fleas, and they rinse down the drain; I'd skip the chemicals.
posted by theora55 at 4:43 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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