By Cathy M. Rosenthal
Tribune Content Agency
We boarded our 115-pound white German shepherd, for 10 days. A few hours after picking him up from the kennel, we discovered he had fleas. The kennel owner said the flea life cycle was 14 days and therefore, my dog could not have gotten fleas during his stay. She said that the fleas couldn’t have jumped from another dog or from the surroundings to infest mine in only 10 days. I’m finding online that fleas can hatch in as little as 2 days in hot humid conditions, which we have. Would you please educate us on how fleas spread, their danger and life cycle?
By the way, my dog had a flea preventative applied about two weeks before his kennel stay. Needless to say, I won’t be boarding my dog there again and not because of my dog getting fleas, but because of the lack of responsibility the kennel owner took. - Sharon M., Naperville, IL
Fleas don’t generally leave a safe, secure host once they find one, but to say that your dog can’t get fleas during a 10-day period in a dog kennel is simply not true.
Dogs can get fleas from going practically anywhere - the kennel, the groomer, or just playing outside. Fleas can jump almost four feet to find a suitable host for their first blood meal. They may even enter your house by hitching a ride on your clothing or socks.
Having said that, it may not have been a flea, but flea eggs that caused the problem here. Flea eggs can drop off the host and get into bedding, carpets or cracks and crevices - warm and humid places - where they can advance through their four-stage lifecycle: egg, larval, pupa (cocoon) and adult flea. It can take two weeks to several months to complete the cycle, depending on environmental conditions. That’s because a flea can stay in the pupa stage until a proper host comes along, which is why you can move into a house with no fleas, and your dog may suddenly be infested with fleas a week later.
Fleas can cause a range of health issues, including dermatitis, tapeworms and anemia. I am not sure why your flea product didn’t work better because a high-quality flea and tick preventative should last four weeks.
No kennel can guarantee there won’t be fleas, but all kennels should make sure pets are on flea preventatives or are treated for fleas before boarding them. Ask a future dog kennel what their protocols are for preventing and managing fleas in their facilities, and always keep your dog on a preventative that kills adult fleas, eggs and larvae.
My miniature poodle was a rescue. I was recently put in assisted living, so my daughter agreed to take my dog. The problem is, he has a bad habit of jumping and nipping people, mostly men, in the behind of ankle. I have not been able to break him of that habit. Could you help? It only happens when the other person walks away. - Connie A., Inver Grove Heights, MN
Small dogs and puppies bite ankles for various reasons. Sometimes because it’s fun to do; sometimes because they are afraid and it’s easier to attack a threat when it’s moving away.
The trick to reducing a bad behavior is to introduce a new behavior in its place. So, tell your daughter to pull out the leash and a clicker and begin training your dog. Have her teach your dog to make eye contact with her first. This involves saying the dog’s name and when he looks at her, clicking and giving the dog a treat. Once he has that down, she needs to just stand there and every time the dog makes eye contact with her, she should click and give a treat. This training will build a bond between the two of them and ensure he looks to her for instructions.
Next, have her reinforce his “sit” and “stay” commands, so she can use these commands when someone gets up and walks away. If he listens, reward him with a treat - or a toy if he is toy motivated. A toy can serve as both reward and a distraction.
If he doesn’t listen and still chases after feet, tell her to continue training, but put him on a leash when people are present until he learns to listen off-leash. Retraining him will take time, but it’s well worth the effort to change his bad habit.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.
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This was printed in the October 15 - October 28, 2017 edition.