Dogster Magazine recently reported a heartbreaking story. The staff at the Sacramento SPCA arrived on Saturday morning to find a little dog in a carrier. The attached note said that the family could no longer take care of her. Why? Because of a severe flea infestation. The sincerity of the note shows that these aren’t lazy people who don’t want to look after their dog. They just didn’t know how to address little Pinky’s severe flea infestation.

Fleas are more than a nuisance

In the Middle Ages, fleas carried the bubonic plague or Black Death, one of the most devastating pandemics in human history.  Carried by fleas on rats, the Black Death killed up to 60% of the population in Europe and the Middle East.

Besides the Black Plague, you can blame fleas for:

  • Skin Infections: “Hot spots” are frequently seen in animals with flea infestations. Very itchy, hot spots can pop up from intense scratching and licking.
  • Tapeworms: Fleas are an essential link in the life cycle of the tapeworm that infects dogs and cats. Fleas are the ‘intermediate host’ or go-between. Fleas are infected with the tapeworm larvae. Dogs eat the flea and that larva hatches into a full blown tapeworm, attaching to the dog’s intestine. Ugh!
  • Anemia: A dog with a heavy case of fleas can lose a significant portion of its blood. This can lead to decreased resistance to other disorders and it can make your dog very lethargic.

Fleas can make your dog’s life miserable, and yours too. Here’s why:

  • fleas live on blood – your Morkie’s, yours, or blood from a wide variety of mammal, including cats, chickens, rabbits, squirrels, rats, ferrets, and mice
  • fleas bite – to get the blood. The result is very itchy, uncomfortable skin
  • if the victim is allergic to fleas then that itch is much worse and very serious

Spotting Fleas

flea dirt

A sure sign of fleas – their black droppings, made of dried blood.

Flea “dirt” in hair combed out from a dog looks like pepper. This dirt is actually flea feces or poop, and is made up almost entirely of dried blood. To find out if it’s just dirt or if it’s flea poop, wipe a wet paper towel across some of the specks; a reddish brown streak means it’s dried blood. That means fleas.

Treating Fleas

Don’t panic and over-medicate or over-treat the flea problem. Many owners think “more is better” when it comes to flea treatment, because they just want to get rid of the fleas and get them off their dog. Don’t do this – it’s very dangerous, since most flea treatments are made from strong chemicals. A small dog like a Morkie is easy to overdose.

There is no single method that will completely eradicate (or at least control) a flea problem.

All commercial flea control products are, let’s face it, poison.

Chemicals in commercial flea products including Imidacloprid, Fipronil and S-Methoprene, are highly toxic. Many advocates are concerned about their use on our pets, especially small dogs.

If you Google “Frontline poisoning” for example, you’ll find thousands of sad stories: illness and death that the owners attribute to commercial flea control products. Other than vaccinations, there is no other pet care subject quite as controversial

Key flea fighting strategies


The flea lifecycle

Keep your home cool and dry: use a dehumidifier and an air conditioner.  Fleas need relative humidity of at least 70 to 75% to hatch. Larvae need at least 50% humidity to survive.

Fleas will die when the temperature is below 70 degrees F. (21 C)

Vacuum Vacuum Vacuum

One Harvard study showed that vacuuming catches about 96% of adult fleas. Be sure to empty the container or throw the vacuum bag out right away.

A combination of controlled humidity, temperature, and vacuuming should eliminate fleas from an environment. Altering even one of these environmental factors may be enough to drastically lower and eliminate an infestation.

Alternate solutions to eradicating fleas – naturally

Note: any of these natural cures need to be done two or three times because of the life cycle of the flea

There are other options to rid your home and pet from fleas; some seem to work and some don’t. But since these are all safe, it’s worth taking a chance:

Salt – sprinkle a very liberal amount of table salt on your carpets where you’ve seen evidence of fleas. The salt seems to kill both fleas and eggs. Leave it on for a day or two and vacuum very thoroughly. Immediately throw out the vacuum cleaner bag or empty the container and wash it. In the meantime, the salt hasn’t harmed your dog or your environment.

Top 4 Flea Fighting Myths

  1. Feeding Brewers Yeast repels fleas – there’s no evidence this works
  2. Garlic or onion in your Morkie’s food will repel fleas – not only does this not work but feeding large amounts of either can actually be toxic for your Morkie!
  3. I’ve never seen fleas on my dog! Fleas are adept at burrowing in and hiding. And if you see 1 there are likely hundreds more, on your dog and throughout your home. 
  4. We have hardwood floors – we can’t have fleas!   Sorry, fleas can develop even in the cracks between the boards of hardwood floors.

What if nothing works?

At this point, you are wise to see your Veterinarian. But don’t hesitate to ask for natural or holistic treatment for the fleas if you are concerned about the commercial flea control options.

Feel like you can’t keep your pet any longer?

If you’re in this situation, please visit this website: before you surrender your pet.  It has lots of suggestions and alternatives.


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