pest control No fleas, please!
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).