Fleas, Pesky Little Creatures

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Get Rid of Fleas in Your Home, Step by Step

Is your dog or cat is scratching a lot lately? Have you seen something small and black jump from the sofa onto your arm? Don’t freak out, take charge of the situation.


Call the Veterinarian

Is your pet on a flea control program? If they are, read the instructions again. It’s easy to miss a step. Ask your veterinarian what they recommend. You want a product that treats fleas at every stage — from egg to adult bug — and one that works well in your climate. Most flea treatments only take one regular monthly dose to keep fleas from making you and your pets itch. Just be sure to treat all of your animals so the fleas don’t simply jump from one to the other.

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Crank Up the Vacuum Cleaner

If you rarely vacuum, a flea invasion should inspire a change of heart. Regular vacuuming lowers the number of fleas and flea eggs from carpet, cracks in wood floors, and on curtains and upholstered furniture. It also catches them under furniture. Don’t forget to vacuum the areas where your pet sleeps and eats. Empty and wash the vacuum cleaner canister or throw away bags in an outside garbage can right away so fleas don’t sneak back inside.

Vacuum every day in the parts of your home where you and your pets hang out the most — like the living room, kitchen, and bedrooms. Vacuum once a week everywhere else.

If you have a serious flea invasion, have your carpets steam-cleaned. The heat will kill the fleas, but it may not kill all the eggs. They may hatch later, and you may have to have your carpets cleaned again.

In really bad cases, you may want to consider treating your house with a flea “bomb” or calling in an exterminator. Just make sure you choose a product that is safe for you and your pets.


Wash Bedding in Hot, Soapy Water

Hot, soapy water kills fleas too, so wash your pet’s bedding once a week. And if your pets sleep in your bed or with your kids, make sure to wash everyone’s bedding, too.

It may seem old school, but a flea comb with tiny teeth does a good job of removing these pests. Do it outside, and concentrate on the neck area and the base of the tail. Keep a cup of soapy water beside you. Use it to dip the comb so you can drown the fleas. Once the house is vacuumed and the bedding is washed, give your dog a bath. Bathing your pet regularly will also help get rid of fleas in your home. Make sure that the soap you use is made for animals.

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Thank you to WebMD Medical Reference for some of the content in this blog.




I admit I cringed when I was asked to write a blog. Writing for me can be a joy, but only if I am inspired. Inspiration does not come on demand. I was fairly confident it would not be visiting me too often, then, I thought of foxtails. Suddenly, the idea of a blog did not seem such drudgery after all.


Recently, foxtails have become the subject of intense interest for us. These only started appearing as an issue in our practice 2 years ago. I remember learning about foxtails in veterinary school 22 years ago. At that time, foxtails were very common in California, where dogs would frequently develop abscesses secondary to the small grass awns which get caught into the pet’s fur and then burrowed into their skin. Having practiced in Virginia, and now Maryland, I never expected to see this disease. Then suddenly, a few years ago, we began to see dogs with mysterious abscesses on their feet and found the grass awns within the wounds.


What has changed? I did some research on the internet, and discovered that foxtail is a common name for several grasses which produce a “spikelet or spikelet cluster to disperse its seeds”. These seeds are soft in the spring, but when the seeds mature, they become harder and sharper, which explains the sudden explosion of cases we have seen this fall. But what it does not explain is why we are now seeing them in this area.


I wonder if landscapers might be using these perennial grasses more frequently in recent years. While I found many posts regarding foxtails from California veterinarians, according to the USDA, these plants are found throughout the US, except in the gulf coast states. Horbeum jubatum, foxtail barley, is considered a weed, which does not fit my theory that they are the hot new trend in landscaping.


If planting foxtails are a conscious choice of homeowners, a public relations campaign directed at informing owners of the risks of their choice might resolve the problem. However, if they are ubiquitous, then educating pet owners about the plant and its hazards is the better route. Either way, word needs to get out to the public.



I discovered four recommendations for prevention among the contributors to the Veterinary Information Network:

  1. Keep your lawn trimmed.
  2. Keep pets out of areas with foxtails.
  3. Inspect your pet’s body, feet, face and ears daily if they have been roaming outside.
  4. Keep their fur trimmed short. – This one makes a lot of sense to me, especially since I feel that the long-haired dogs have been overrepresented among the cases we have seen.

I also found a link to an interesting product called Outfox (www.outfoxfordogs.com). I have had no experience with this product, but it looks like it is worth trying.


In terms of treatment of the pets, we will usually begin with antibiotics and try to find and remove the foxtail if we can. This can prove to be a challenge. Many cases develop lesions on their feet, but foxtails can penetrate the skin anywhere on the body and migrate a remarkable distance. The latter quality makes them dangerous.


If you suspect your dog has a foxtail wound, please call our office to arrange an appointment so we can address the problem promptly.


Dr. Patricia Ainsworth, DVM