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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Fleas & Our Fur-Children

You have read about our invisible struggles with supposed dust mites, or the scratching of our dogs due to allergies.  I believe we were misdirected.  More pedestrian than imagined, I now think that our problem is… fleas.

Not that it’s our problem.  It’s Misha and Grisha’s plague, our Scottish Terriers of Perpetual Scratching.  When it’s spring, they scratch, in summer, they scratch, in the fall they really scratch, and in the winter they still scratch.  It seems that spring and fall are the worst.

The vet has given them this pill and that.  Some dope them down, others hype them up.  The goal is something along the lines of taking their minds off of the scratching.  Instead, it lowers their immune system, and then they have problems of another sort.

We’ve changed their diet.  No more chicken, rice, wheat, or corn.  That’s about 99% of dog foods right there.   Delicacies like duck, kangaroo, venison, and sweet potato have been suggested, along with a raw meat diet which would be way too much work, not to mention  grossing me out.

We tried duck with sweet potatoes, but it was hard to find.  We switched to brown rice and venison now.  However, I’m still not convinced that food is the culprit, since there are seasonal flare-ups that would seem to suggest an environmental trigger.

Finally we decided to consult a doggy dermatologist.  I hoped they didn’t want to shave the dogs’ side and stick them with a series of needle to determine their specific allergies.  Maybe a simple blood test?

“All year round?” she quizzed us.  “They have problems all year round?”

Don’t we all, I thought, but instead responded, “All year round, with intermittent flare-ups.”

She was a pro.  She asked about diet, habits, where exactly they scratched, and more.  When I told her about observing black pepper specks on my occasional summer-white clothes from when the dogs would sit in my lap, she nailed it.



“Is anyone else in the family being bitten?” the doctor inquired.

“Not that we know of, just the dogs….”

There was the occasional mosquito bite in the middle of the night, but nothing that we could clearly attribute to fleas.  Turns out that the black pepper specks were the fleas’ excrement.  All over me, my bed, and who knows where else.

“Maybe they are bitten when they’re outside,” she conjectured.  “Even one bite can cause an extreme allergic reaction in some dogs.”

Misha stood on her examining table, quaking in fear.  He generally didn’t like vets.  She checked him out and her assistant took a scraping of his inflamed skin.  He liked that:  someone else scratching the itch for him-!

The veterinarian dermatologist gave us a plan of attack:  environmental first, then food trials if necessary, and no extreme tests until exhausting all else.  We had already shared our attack plan with the dust mites that would also drive out any fleas:  excessive vacuuming of all carpets, cushions, and canines; Diatomaceous Earth (food grade crushed sedimentary rock ground into a fine powder)  spread everywhere inside, left for a few days, then vacuumed; DE spread in the yard outside also to kill creepy crawlies; more vacuuming; spraying essential eucalyptus oil on the dog’s fur, brushing it through, and spraying all upholstered furniture….  At least we were smelling good!

She asked us how frequently we gave our flea applications to the back-of-the-neck, confirming that it generally did not last the full month claimed.  Instead, after two weeks it did little and they were back to scratching.  The dermatologist confirmed that Australians generally used it on their dogs every two weeks due to a dangerous tick found there.

So, it came down to fleas, fleas we had never seen, probably due to the Scotties’ long fur.  Once home, I decided to check the inside of their back legs where they would bite or scratch.  Petya held Misha like a baby, his legs pointing toward me, and I examined the dog’s private parts.

Fleas.  I saw them for myself, running here and there on his lower belly.  I sprung into action.

We used a special anti-flea shampoo, lathering up both dogs until they looked like Santa Claus.  Rinse.  Dry.  Brush.  Check them out.


We bought the anti-flea spray with Pyrethrin as the active ingredient.  I didn’t know if this would make them glow in the dark, but we were going to nuke the fleas.  I sprayed inside and outside their back legs.


I sprayed again and brushed it into their hair, hopefully touching their skin this time with the potion.

A few fleas.  They began to scratch their ears.  We held them down and peered into their hairy ears.  More fleas hiding out.

I sprayed the flea stuff on my fingers and swabbed their ears with my hand, then washed my hands thoroughly.

It took a week or two of vacuuming, bathing, spraying, repeating.  Vacuuming, bathing, spraying, repeating.  The black powder flecks on my comforter where they would sleep diminished.  We sprinkled potpourri-smelling flea powder inside on all rugs, couches, and dog beds, and outside near every door.  This was much less “dirty” than the DE which worked, but was like a layer of dirty dust when making contact with their fur.  This was also much more effective than any bug bombs we would set off when heading to our other house—the bomb simply seemed to irritate a few cockroaches, rather than kill any flea eggs hanging around.

Like the dust mites, this was a microscopic problem.  Maybe there were fleas inside our house, maybe not.  There were definitely fleas taking our dogs for a ride.  Armed with our chemicals, we let them know in no uncertain terms that the bus stopped here.  The pills stopped here.  Our doggies were better for the first time in a long time.

Here’s hoping and praying that when fall rolls around, they will not be affected by any seasonal situations such as molds or spores.  Our fur-babies are free of fleas and the itchies, and at least for now, we could breathe a sigh of relief.



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8 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Winnie says:

    A seasoned flea battler here. The frontline stuff and similar is a God send but it seems your already doing that. Since the furbabies are mostly contained to the yards hire and exterminator to spray your lawn and the house on a regular basis. We did this when we lived down south and between the frontline and the yard spraying we rarely would have fleas on our dog. Long haired dogs are more prone I think too. I don’t know if they still make it but you can “dip” your dogs. Usually have to get it from a vet or a livestock/farm supply place. It’s some nasty smelling stuff but that tends to wipe out fleas that are on the dogs faster and more completly than the flea shampoos. It’s harsh but usually only requires one treatment. We had a poodle that had nasty reactions to fleas when I was a kid so it’s a possiblity they are allergic to them.

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks, Winnie, I have seen the “dips” at the pet store, might need to check into that. These must be bionic fleas. I think we need the pros in here. Big guy kept me up all last night shaking his ears, so I kept spraying my hands and rubbing the stuff in his ears–that’s about the only place they can hide anymore-! I’ve never heard of yard spraying, here they generally sink those cylinders in the yard for termites or whatever. I still see termites swarming when their season begins, and apparently, the fleas are having a hey day, as well. I’ll get out my blow-torch if I have to….

  2. avatar Kathleen says:

    Good luck! What a battle you have on your hands.

  3. avatar Winnie says:

    yeah, call some exterminators. I can’t imagine you wouldn’t find a few that would treat your yard once every 2-3 months w/o problem. When we were in AR we had a guy who came quarterly and sprayed the entire yard and the perimeter of the inside of the house with a broad spectrum insecticide and it kept the bugs to a minimum. They guy we had would even come back and spray in between for free if we had bugs. Wasn’t terrible expensive at all (or we couldn’t have done it on our newly wed budget) but it worked. We did it mainly cause we’d get these giant waterbugs that looked like overgrown roaches without the spraying, killing fleas and ticks was just a handy by-product. Now as far as being organic or earth friendly – I doubt that, but I really didn’t care after having 4 inch roach like bugs scurry around the house.

    • avatar admin says:

      Yep, those big bugs have been scurrying into the house during this current storm. Oh joy. They are dead on arrival, though, with all of our indoor treatments, lol. So every morning I gather up the carcasses and clean again…. I’ll have to check on someone who could spray the yard, I’ve also heard of a certain strain of tiny worm that you can buy from online garden centers who are supposed to eat fleas. Whatever’s safe enough for dogs and kids… thank you!

  4. avatar Kerry says:

    As another veteran flea fighter (I show dogs), I wanted to caution you from using too many different poisons at once… like flea soap or dip, home spray, yard spray, and a spot-on all at the same time. You can hurt your dogs’ liver and kidneys or cause a neurological reaction. The flea nematodes (I would order online… I’ve looked at my local stores and even though their websites say they carry them, they never do!) are a good plan for your yard.

    In addition to the fleas, your dogs may be bothered by dry skin. I give my dogs 45 lbs and over 1000mg fish oil capsules from the human vitamin section. Scottish dogs were bred to eat fish and this helps keep their coats and skin healthier (learned this from my vet- I’ve have Goldens and Border Collies- also Scottish origins). The healthier your dog is the better they are able to fight things off. Some folks even say this applies to fleas, although I haven’t seen that with my 5 dogs. A good, original-meat-source food that can be gotten reasonably is Taste of the Wild. It is now stocked at TSC (Tractor Supply) stores, although if you’re not in a rural-ish area they may be harder to find. Pet Supply Plus stores also stock it. They use venison and potato. In my area it runs about $45 for 30 lbs. I have had good luck with it and thought I’d pass the info along!

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks for the info, Kerry, about overdoing it on the sprays and potions. We haven’t seen anything for a while now, then the dogs were scratching all last night. (I reeeeallly could use one night’s full sleep once/year or so….) Today we sprayed everything that moved and that didn’t-! We do give them the fish oil, along with a little Greek yogurt. I’m telling ya, it’s going to be caviar next, sigh. Our dogs love any kind of fish. I’ll keep the Taste of the Wild in mind. Now I see a small scaly patch under the big guy’s front armpit-?! I hope it’s not the old two steps forward, one step back. I think the yard is a major line of defense, thanks for the nematode reminder!

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