General Dog Care

How to Prevent (and Treat) Fleas on Dogs

Spring is right around the corner, and for those of us in the colder states we may be starting to feel the first signs of the new season right around the corner. The snow is melting, the days start to be above freezing and we occasionally get that beautiful day above 50 F. As great as that all is, this is also the time that the fleas (and other bugs) start to stir. In Michigan, I have seen that our ‘flea season’ (fleas can be a problem year round for pets, the season just indicates when they are most active) is typically between April thru November. So let’s prepare our pets to make sure that fleas are a non-issue this season! If fleas are already a problem, stick around because I’ll go over how to get rid of them if they are already on your dog and in your home. 

I am going to say, I am not well versed in natural ways to prevent fleas. Because of that, I am not going to cover that topic here. I do not want to spread information that I am just not well knowledgeable in, but I implore you to speak with your veterinarian before adopting any sort of new flea treatments for your pets: natural or medications.

Let’s first go over how to prevent your dog from getting fleas! 

My first recommendation would be a flea preventative. You can get these prescribed by your veterinarian or over the counter at most pet stores. Not all flea preventatives are created equal! In my years in grooming salons I have found that brands that are cheaper have a tendency to cause a chemical burn and reactions on dogs’ skins. Your vet will have a preferred brand that they like to work with and I would always go with that brand. Even if you find it more expensive than what you would like to pay, your veterinarian will know that brand and how it acts better than any other and can help you just in case your pet does have a reaction to them. 

For my dog, we used K9 Advantix II, which is a spot on treatment, and it seemed to work great for us! Spot on treatments work by applying a small dose of liquid medication on your dog where they won’t be able to disturb it: typically in between their shoulder blades. This medication then starts to be absorbed into the skin and will spread to the rest of the body, killing the fleas that may be living on your dog and being able to do so typically for about a month. If the fleas were able to lay eggs before dying, once the eggs hatch they will also die once they start to bite. Keep this in mind if you swore you got rid of the fleas and a few days later more show up, they will not be able to lay new eggs and they will most likely stop appearing.

Another flea preventative is oral medication. From what I have read, these medications can work in a variety of ways depending on what brand you decide to go with. They use either hormone growth regulators possibly alongside insecticide (which is what is used to kill the adult fleas in spot on treatments), which targets the eggs of the fleas by preventing the eggs to hatch and molt. However, a lot of brands do not have insecticide in them and oral medications are often paired with spot on treatments to make sure all bases of flea prevention are covered! Speak to your vet if you would like an oral medication that has both growth hormone disruptors and insecticide. 

Collars are a very popular option, but reviews and opinions on them vary especially in the animal care world. In my opinion, I do not recommend flea collars. Although there are some brands out there that work by slowly being soaked in by the glands on the skin, others only protect that specific area of the dog. In my salon days, I have seen many times where a dog came in with a flea collar on and we still found fleas on the dog; they just migrated to the belly or the base of the tail. I would use this method alongside one of the two mentioned above if you do want to use a flea collar. Please also be careful with the brand you pick, as stated above for spot on treatments these collars can also create burns and skin irritations and some brands seem to have these issues more than others. Speak within your veterinarian on what flea collars they would recommend for your dog. 

So what if you already have fleas? Let’s go over that now

First, start with picking one of the first two options above. Getting that preventative started will help to make sure the fleas have no home to go to if new fleas find their way onto your dog again. Fleas can hop on your dog from any place, even walking across a parking lot if they just happened to have jumped off any other animal right before you walked by. It truly can happen that quickly. 

Let’s also make sure we do not over medicate our dogs. A lot of people will want to give them a flea bath and then put preventative on and I suggest extreme caution. Giving a bath is fine, but using a highly medicated and toxic shampoo then putting even more medicine on them with a spot on or giving it to them orally can possibly cause a reaction because of all the toxins. 

For baths, I personally like to use a tea tree shampoo. It will help relieve that itching that they have been feeling, and is also said to be a natural flea killer. Saying that, DO NOT apply tea tree oil to your dog! It is extremely hard to dilute properly so purchasing a well known tea tree dog formulated shampoo is the safest option, as if not diluted properly could make your dog very sick! I used the brand Espree while working in a salon and it smells wonderful and the dogs really seemed to enjoy it. At home in a pinch I have used dawn dish soap, but it can really damage their coat so be careful. 

*Groomer tip: Don’t wet your dog before putting the soap on. Lather the soap super thick all over, avoiding the eyes and ear canals and let them soak for a good 10 minutes. This will help your dog’s skin feel better and also help drown/kill the fleas that are on there, and I find the element of surprise (no water) catches the most fleas without them jumping off! Make sure to focus on the areas where the fleas will want to hide: belly, base of tail and the armpits!

If you have no access to a bath and you find some fleas, there are sprays that are also sold at pet stores but I have personally never used them. Please read all the instructions before using any of the above products on your dog! 

Once we have the fleas off your dog and have a flea preventative on them, you may need to focus on how bad the infestation is in your home. With your dog on a preventative, the fleas should slowly start to fade away, however, if the infestation was really bad you may need to take further steps to make sure they are completely gone. At most pet stores you can find foggers which contain a high amount of toxins and chemicals that spread through the house and will kill most if not all the fleas. You need to be very careful to read all instructions on the package to keep all of your belongings safe during this process, as again these foggers are highly toxic. Another solution to consider is using a flea treatment in your yard. This will help, as other animals like squirrels and rabbits also carry fleas. 

If you are unsure on how to proceed with ridding your home and yard of these pests, I would recommend contacting an exterminator. They will be able to guide you in the right direction!

References

Burke, A. (2019, July 24). How to get rid of dog fleas in 4 steps – American Kennel Club. American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-to-get-rid-of-fleas/

Prevent and treat fleas. (2018, February 21). WebMD. https://pets.webmd.com/fleas-prevent-treat#3

Grooming Tips for Pet Parents

The Different Avenues of Dog Grooming

Hello pet parents! In this article I want to go over the different avenues that groomers may choose to go down in their grooming career. Most people know of grooming salons, and places like Petco and PetSmart that offer grooming inside of their stores but this article will go over the different places you may be able to find a dog groomer that works best for you and your dog! 

Here is a list of all the avenues of grooming that a dog groomer may take! I will break down each to the best of my knowledge with their pros and cons. There may be even more avenues out there and I will update this article if I find them!

Avenues of grooming:

*Corporate grooming salons

*Private grooming salons

*Private homes

*Veterinarian offices

*Grooming schools/academies

*Mobile vans/trailers

*House calls

Corporate Grooming Salons

I owe my grooming career to a corporate salon! These places hire those who are wanting to become dog groomers as bathers, and then send them to their grooming programs to teach them how to groom. These places are very convenient for pet parents as they can get all of their pet’s needs taken care of in one place. They also allow you to stick with the same groomer if you please or see whomever has an availability first. Some cons are that because they are typically high volume stores they may not be a good fit for dogs who are dog aggressive, have anxiety, or other health problems that need to be monitored by the entire groom. You will find the prices typically in the middle of most private salons as these companies do a pretty good job surveying prices in areas and adjusting to them. 

Private Grooming Salons

These salons are owned by individuals who are either groomers themselves or employ groomers to work for them. They are hired typically from corporate groomers looking for a change, out of grooming school or even training them at their facilities. They typically have great atmospheres and because you are there solely for grooming these groomers do not have the added stress of getting you to add on products or services and can solely focus on the groom. There is also less foot traffic and may be less stressful for your pet and private salons may be able to work a little better with pets who have special needs or are seniors. They will be priced similar to corporate salons, but depending on the location and experience of the staff you could pay more at a corporate salon. These groomers may also specialize in certain grooming techniques and styles, and will charge for those accordingly. 

Veterinarian Offices

I would like to start off saying, not every veterinarian office offers grooming services. These places are good for dogs who may need some medical assistance like infections, or severe matting. It is also a good option for those who want their dogs to be around familiar faces, and if anything does go wrong during the grooming session (accidents do happen), they will be able to take care of them immediately. Salons will also refer dogs who may need to be sedated due to aggression or extreme anxiety while the pet parent works with a dog trainer or behavior specialist. Because they typically deal with more difficult dogs or will use medications/additional staff to help they may charge more a corporate or private grooming salon but will be honest in stating that I’m not entirely sure about grooming prices at veterinarian offices. 

At Home/Private Residence 

These groomers work right out of their own homes! They convert either an outdoor patio, garage, basement, or even a shed into a mini grooming salon. Some may use cages but typically they do not work with more than a couple dogs at a time. These groomers create a relaxing, cozy environment for their dogs. They have the ability to use their own tools and products and can specialize in whatever specialty they like. These groomers keep overhead very low and can typically charge less than a grooming salon or other avenues of grooming but that will depend on what grooming service you are looking for, the experience of the groomer and condition of the coat. 

Grooming Schools/Academies 

There are several industries that need clients to come visit them so they can get the experience they need to work unsupervised: dental hygienist, massage therapists, and dog groomers! Although there are not many grooming schools, if you take your dog there, they will be in good hands! Every dog is looked over before leaving by an instructor before leaving and students are encouraged to ask questions. No, your groom may not be perfect but your pet will be in good hands, you will be helping students, and will be saving money too!

Mobile Van/Trailer

Sometimes, traveling to the groomer can be a bit of a hassle. You may have a crazy schedule, work from home while watching the kids, your dog may get motion sickness or you just love the idea of someone coming to you so you can stay home and relax. This is where the mobile groomer comes in! They typically have a large van they groom out of, or a trailer that they pull behind their vehicle. They will either come to your door to grab your pup or you can walk to them but they will perform the entire groom one on one at the curb of your house! These groomers are on the luxury price end of grooming, from what I have seen they are typically the most expensive, but the cage free environment and no travel makes this avenue a lot less stressful for pets! These groomers can also offer specialized grooms and typically have years of experience in the field.

House Call

The last on the list, but certainly not least, is the house call groomer. That’s me! House call groomers take things a step further than mobile groomers and will set up right inside your home. They bring a table and all of their tools and only need your bathtub or sink to wash your dog in. This avenue is really good for dogs who need someone to work with them due to health conditions or behavioral problems. This is also good for senior dogs who just need comfort grooming at the end of their lives and do not do so well with the loud sounds and hustle and bustle of a grooming salon (mobile is also good for this as well). House call groomers also are on the more expensive end. They have to carry all of their tools and typically have a very physically taxing job of working on the ground or wherever the pet is the most comfortable. That is not to say the other avenues are not physically taxing, they are! 

I hope you enjoyed this list of the different areas you will find groomers! All of this stems from my experience in the grooming world, and I do apologize if there is some information that may not pertain to your area like it does mine. Please know pricing and practices do vary by location so please look more into each avenue before deciding on a dog groomer. I absolutely love all my groomers out there in any avenue that they chose to take because it gives you, the pet parent, so many avenues to choose from and be able to see what works best for you and your pooch!

General Dog Care

Dog Parks; What You Need To Know Before Visiting!

Dog parks, normally when I think about dog parks I visualize large green pastures with high fences with dogs running around off leash playing with each other while their pet parents socialize and relax. Is that what you envision as well? I’ll be honest in saying that I have personally never seen a dog park in real life and only in movies. So in order to write this article, I did quite a bit of research to find out what REAL dog parks are like, are they safe and what you should do to prepare for your visit to the dog park, or if you should even visit a dog park at all. After this article there will be a page of references, I highly recommend you read them as they contain lots of amazing information that I was not able to dive into during this article. 

Firstly, I would like to go over the benefits of dog parks. Dog parks can be great places for dogs to get off leash and burn some energy, especially in big cities and places where local governments may have put restrictions on dogs and where they are not allowed to be. It creates a space for the dog parent and dog to bond and be outside and get some fresh air, and is a great way for the pet parent to get in some exercise too!

Now the next part is breaking down what you should take note of at the dog park to help you decide if it is appropriate for you and your pet. 

The Park’s Structure

One of the very first things you can do to make sure your dog will be safe at the dog park is to check out the park itself first. You’ll want a dog park that has high fences and plenty of spaces for dogs to separate from each other in case one needs a break. You don’t want another dog to be able to charge at another and tackle them, even in play, and the other dog does not have an option to hide if they are not interested in playing with that dog or that way. Take note to see if dogs are conjuring around the openings of the park and how big the entrances are. If dogs seem to loiter around this spot, it could possibly start some anxiety with your dog being bombarded with new dogs and scents all at once especially by dogs who are hyper and may not read body language signs from other dogs, but we will go over that in detail after. 

Is it located next to a busy road? Do you feel secure with the park’s entrance that it could stop your dog or other dogs from running outside of the park? Do they have benches, clean up areas or communal watering areas for dogs? Be careful about letting your dog drink from communal areas as they could spread unwanted germs and illnesses from dog to dog. 

The behaviors of your dog and other dogs

The other area of mention is to watch how your dog is with other dogs, even before going to the dog park. Just like humans, not every dog is interested in every other dog and they may not get along with every other dog. Once a dog hits mature age, they may have less drive to meet new dogs or to play with others (and just like humans, there may be some who simply cannot get enough of other people and dogs). 

If your dog is showing signs like: yawning a lot, panting, becoming suddenly startled, possessive of toys or food then maybe the dog park is not for you. Also be conscious if your dog is overly hyper and plays rough. Not every dog is going to want to play with your dog, especially if they are very hyper! Keep an eye on your dog and other dogs, if they start giving signs that they are becoming uncomfortable around your dog, or your dog is uncomfortable around another dog, you will need to be able to remove yourself and your dog until both have calmed down. 

Preparing to go to the Park

After doing some research, checking out your local park and determining if your dog plays well with others then it is time to get ready to go to the park! Leashes and collars are not the only items you will need to go to the park. Disposable bags for accidents are a must, along with bringing a dish and water for your dog to drink from when they get thirsty. There are lots of cool portable water carriers for dogs that you can find online or at your local pet retailer. 

Aside from physical items, I highly recommend that your dog is fully up to date all their vaccinations before visiting the park. If you wonder how long you should wait, your vet can tell you that information. They will also be able to tell you what vaccinations they believe your dog should have if you plan on visiting dog parks. 

So what if the dog park isn’t for you and your pup?

As I stated before, dog parks are not for every pair of pet parents and dogs. But there are still plenty of cool activities that you can do with your dog that don’t involve them having to socialize with tons of other dogs. Consider joining a sport with them like agility or frisbee! There are also events called Barn Hunt which you can find more about at the American Kennel Club’s website. 

I hope this article helped you in deciding if dog parks are right for you and your dog, and if they are not I truly hope you look into those fun activities listed just above! They will help give your pet and you some amazing bonding experiences. 

References

Barn Hunt. (n.d.). American Kennel Club. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.akc.org/sports/title-recognition-program/barn-hunt/

Bergel, H., KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA, & CBCC-KA. (2021, June 7). Should Your Pup Go to the Dog Park? Daily Paws. https://www.dailypaws.com/dogs-puppies/dog-exercise-play/are-dog-parks-safe-for-all-dogs

Dog Parks: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – APDT. (2017, March 10). APDT. https://apdt.com/resource-center/dog-parks-good-bad-ugly/

Helmer, J. (n.d.). Dog Park Safety: What to Know Before You Go. WebMD. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/features/dog-park-safety#2