Mrs. Dee Nile had brought her little Poodle, “Precious”, in for her annual examination. I saw “Precious” every September for this yearly ritual of examining “Precious”, recommending a weight reducing diet, and recommending a dental cleaning to try to clear up the horrendous smell coming from the obviously infected teeth.

I do have a few pet owners with pets having similar problems, who year after year promise they will follow my recommendations, only to come in the next year with a fatter dog with a smellier mouth. I have to give Mrs. Nile credit for two things. First, she flat out tells me year after year that she has no intention of “starving” her little “Precious” and that she doesn’t want me to clean her teeth because she knows I will extract some teeth and then how in the world will she be able to eat! So I do really appreciate her honesty in refusing to follow my recommendations. The second thing is that in spite of not doing anything I recommend, she does come back in every year. It must be my charming personality!

minutes of beginning my examination of “Precious”, I noticed a problem. I noticed it before “Precious” even had a chance to try to bite me (another part of our yearly ritual). Speaking of that, it is incredible how many times a dog’s personality is the exact opposite of the name given by owners. When Mrs. Nile gets her next dog I am going to recommend the names “Tubby” and “Halitosis” to see if her next dog can avoid these problems. Anyway, as I started my exam I saw three very healthy, fat, egg-filled fleas run across little “Precious’” hindquarters. These fleas had obviously been feasting on “Precious” for at least 2-3 days. Without thinking, I quickly exclaimed, “Wow, look at those fleas!”

I thought Mrs. Nile was going to come completely unglued! She informed me that she had had dogs for YEARS and had never had a single flea. If “Precious” had fleas, she most certainly got them from coming into my clinic. For years she had used garlic tablets, Brewer’s Yeast, and other various forms of hocus pocus (my word, not hers). Obviously they worked, because in all these years she had never had a single flea on any of her dogs. I finished my examination and recommended a few things which Mrs. Nile told me she thought were unnecessary. She declined flea control I recommended and stated she would rely on her own flea control methods. I told her to have a great rest of the day and would look forward to seeing her next year.

You can use Brewer’s Yeast and/or garlic tablets to try to prevent fleas. I think they might discourage fleas a little. There are some natural products to try to keep fleas off your pet and I do think that some of them can help. But every year I see pets with severe flea infestations where these products have failed. It is really hard to tell how well they truly work because these products don’t have to go through the same testing as the flea products that we recommend that come with a 100% guarantee that fleas will be controlled. In addition, every year many pet owners use nothing to control fleas and have no problems. Sometimes it is just pure luck that a pet stays flea-free. Those who aren’t lucky and end up with a flea infestation have to spend the next several months trying to get rid of fleas on their pet and in their home. Do you feel lucky?

Flea season isn’t over yet. Flea season isn’t over after the first frost, or the second frost, or the third frost. Sure, a frost will kill adult fleas outside, but as soon as it warms up again adults will emerge from pupae and start looking for a blood meal. The temperature needs to stay below 60 degrees to keep adult fleas from coming out again. Flea control needs to be continued until the temperature no longer gets over 60 degrees, even if that occurs in December. In addition, as the temperature starts to drop fleas seem to be much more likely to try to gravitate inside to the warmth. They can do that hitching a ride on your pet, or they can just jump into your house like any other insect pests we deal with in our homes. Ask your veterinarian what they recommend to prevent these unwanted guests for the winter-unless you feel lucky.

Dr. Chad Higgins is a small animal veterinarian and has owned Amanda Animal Hospital for the past 12 years.