pest con­trol No fleas, please!

EQUUS - - Barn Dogs -

Q:My poor Lab, Gus, is plagued with hot spots, es­pe­cially on his rump. He chews and chews and chews at them. I’ve tried putting cor­ti­sone cream on them, but he just licks it off. What causes these skin sores and how can I give him some re­lief?

A:I have good news and bad news for you. The bad news is, the most com­mon cause of “hot spots”---red, moist, ir­ri­tated le­sions in the skin---is fleas. And if Gus lives in your home, so do the fleas.

The good news is that there are many prod­ucts and strate­gies to help you deal with this prob­lem. And your in­fes­ta­tion may not be that bad---the dogs who get hot spots are usu­ally the ones who are the most sen­si­tive to flea bites, so even a small num­ber of pests can pro­duce a huge re­ac­tion.

While you’ll find an over­whelm­ing se­lec­tion of flea-con­trol prod­ucts at the pet store, I urge you to start by taking Gus to your vet­eri­nar­ian. Many skin dis­eases look very sim­i­lar, so it never hurts to have your vet­eri­nar­ian con­firm both the hot spots and the cause---in ad­di­tion to fleas, hot spots can be caused by food or con­tact al­ler­gies, other par­a­sites, in­fec­tions or com­pul­sive lick­ing due to stress or bore­dom. Also, be­cause dogs tend to lick, scratch and chew hot spots, se­condary in­fec­tions and trauma are com­mon, and Gus may need ad­di­tional treat­ments. Your vet­eri­nar­ian can also guide you to­ward the most ef­fec­tive flea-con­trol strate­gies in your ge­o­graphic re­gion, be­cause this can vary some­what.

If I am right about your fleas, get ready to roll up your sleeves be­cause you will need to clean

and treat your home to kill the eggs and lar­vae lurk­ing there. A word of cau­tion: Just when you think you have won the battle, a few eggs you missed will hatch, and the itch­ing will start again. But if you stick with the clean­ing and flea treat­ments for just two or three life cy­cles, you can put an end to it.

You’ll also want to keep Gus on an ef­fec­tive pre­ven­ta­tive pro­gram to keep him from pick­ing up new fleas when he goes out­side. Your vet­eri­nar­ian can help you with this, too. An­other great source of in­for­ma­tion is the web­site of the Com­pan­ion An­i­mal Par­a­site Coun­cil (www.pet­sand­par­a­sites.org).

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