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Protecting Your Labrador Retriever From Ticks & Fleas

All dogs that frequent the outdoors will sooner or later come down with a case of flea infestation. In the summer, fleas are everywhere your Labrador wants to go, so be prepared to do battle against their presence on the dog and in your house. While fleas seem to like all dogs, they also go for certain humans.

Fleas are nasty insects, they bite the host, itch like crazy, suck blood, and often pass on tapeworms. It takes a good effort to rid them from where they hide. Begin by purchasing a flea spray or powder from your veterinarian, pet shop, or grooming parlor. The dog's coat must be thoroughly doused with the repellent for it to work effectively, but be careful to apply it safely.

Start at the head and work down the body, applying it against the grain of the coat. Take great care to protect and cover the dog's eyes, nose, and mouth, as such products can be very irritating to sensitive tissue. I would recommend two people doing the head: one to protect; one to slowly, carefully apply the anti-flea agent.

Anything frequently used by the dog (such as a crate or a bed) should also be sprayed to kill the breeding colonies not on the dog. If the fleas should work their way into the carpeting and furniture, apply a heavy-duty insect bomb (available in hardware stores) to the entire house and evacuate the area for several hours. There are also commercial products (sprays, powders, or liquids) that you can apply to your rug after the bombing to keep any embedded eggs from hatching and re-infesting the area.

To help deter further infestations, place a flea collar on the dog when outside (you can remove it inside, if you like). Should the collar ever get wet, immediately remove it as it can be very irritating to the dog's skin. Should normal efforts fail to rid your dog of fleas, a flea dip should do the job. You can either take the dog to a professional groomer or carefully bathe the dog at home following the directions on the product.

Ticks are also common problems for Labradors, especially black ones whose dark coats mask their presence. Certain species are also the vectors of Lyme disease, which affects humans as well as other mammals. Ticks gnaw through the dog's skin and implant themselves in order to suck the dog's blood.

They must be carefully removed, not simply ripped off, because improper removal can cause the head to be torn from the tick's body and remain embedded in the dog's skin, where it may become infected or abscessed. To remove the tick, use tweezers or your thumb and first finger to grasp it as close to the skin as possible. Exert a firm but gentle constant upward pressure (don't twist, as this can tear the body).

Some people prefer to apply tick dip to the site prior to removal. The dip suffocates the ticks and make the task easier. This is not necessary if care is taken to remove the tick properly. A thick, red spot may remain for several days where the tick was removed. Never burn a tick off with a match or cigarette. This is simply dangerous and unnecessary.

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