It only takes one. A single flea bite to your dog or cat can set off a chain reaction that can potentially send you and your pet into a literal tailspin. It isn’t the actual bite that causes the allergic reaction but the saliva the flea injects into the bitten area. The saliva helps the flea feed more efficiently.

Not all pets develop flea allergies. My own dog has had fleas and never has she shown symptoms of an allergy, but my cat, oh lord that is a different story. She can take a single flea bite and turn it into a two hundred dollar vet bill within a week. Her reaction to fleas is so severe I immediately know when one of the vermin has invaded our home. Here are some common do’s and don’ts for combating these horrible little pests.

1. Use a proven flea control shampoo such as Adams. Follow the directions on the bottle to the letter. If it says to wait ten minutes before rinsing your pet, then WAIT ten minutes. Fleas are incredibly durable. Two minutes can mean the difference between killing one and just making it dormant for a few hours. And don’t fall back on the old wives’ tales. Garlic is of the onion family and onions are toxic to pets. Garlic has been given to pets in moderation in the belief it will prevent fleas, but too much garlic and you are asking for potential trouble.

2. Fleas go for the soft spots. When checking your pet for fleas start at the base of the tail and brush the hair against the grain to lift it and show skin. Continue moving up the back and sides in this manner. Check around the genitals and rectum. Check the knees, belly and under all four legs. If your pet wears a collar remove it and search the neck area. Fleas love to hide where pets can’t easily scratch.

3. If your pet is infested then begin washing your pet at the neck first. Fleas will run toward high ground because they somehow know a pet will hold its head above water. They can also get into the ears and really make life miserable. By starting at the neck and saturating it with flea killing shampoo they have nowhere to run. I have seen severe flea infestations where the animal was submerged in a bath and two minutes later dozens of fleas are sitting on its nose. Just because the animal is wet doesn’t mean a flea is immobile and will drown. It is said the only way to drown a flea is to drown the dog, and even then the only guaranteed death is the dog’s.

4. The one problem with using internal medicines for flea control, such as Sentinel, Frontline, or other proven products, is that the flea has to actually bite your pet and feed in order to kill it. A flea allergy can begin ten to fourteen days after the first bite. You may keep your pet on these products year round but still have a flea allergy in spite of your efforts. This is why you must stay on top of a potential situation using both internal and external preventative maintenance. Shampoos, flea bombs, regular grooming and plain common awareness can go a long way in keeping your pet healthy and happy.

Always check with your veterinarian before beginning any treatment for parasites. They are the battle line fighters of these pests and no one is more knowledgeable in controlling them.