Fleas, those tiny, jumping, bloodsucking parasites, are an unfortunate fact of life for most dog owners—if you have a dog, chances are she'll have fleas at some point. Flea dirt offers evidence of these unwelcome freeloaders, and will show quite easily against your Maltese's pristine white coat.
The Dirt on Flea Dirt
If, during your daily brushing of your little Maltese's silky coat, you notice small black flecks on her skin, don't spend much time trying to discover how she managed to sprinkle pepper on herself. These small specks are flea dirt, which is a more polite term for their poop. Place these little flecks onto a wet paper towel and they'll soon dissolve into red smears. This is essentially the discarded blood the fleas have siphoned from their walking buffet—your poor pooch. Prime locations for flea dirt include around your Maltese's neck, behind her ears and around the base of her tail. You may see some actual fleas as they scurry about on your pup, but the little critters are good at hiding, so don't rely on visual confirmation to diagnose an infestation.
Lose the Dirt
After getting over that squirmy feeling, you need to get to the business of cleaning your dog up. Flea combs, with their tightly spaced teeth, can brush out much of the dirt you see, but unless you want to spend hours carefully combing through your pup's entire coat, it's not the most practical way. A bath with a gentle shampoo easily washes away all the flea dirt throughout her coat, leaving her coat clean and white once more.
De-Fleaing Your Maltese
Don't think that your flea dirt problem is over once your pretty pup is out of the tub. Those bloodsuckers live to eat, breed and poop, so there could be fresh flea dirt on your Maltese before her lovely locks are dry. To stop the dirt, you have to stop the fleas. Many topical medications kill any fleas on your pretty pup within a day or two, and are available at your local retail or pet store. The Maltese breed tends to have sensitive skin and can develop reactions to various allergens, including flea bites. If your silky-haired pup suffers from skin problems, consult your vet for the best flea control product that won't irritate her skin further.
The dirt is gone and the fleas are dead; you're done, right? Not quite, as fleas reproduce by laying eggs on their host, which fall off wherever your little princess happens to be. The eggs hatch and the tiny larvae hunker down deep within carpet fibers or pet bedding to grow until they morph into adults. The new adult fleas hop onto you or your dog, and feed, mate and then lay more eggs to continue the parasitic cycle. Wash with hot water all bedding that your pooch came into contact with while she was infested. Thoroughly vacuum and shampoo all carpeting, and use insect growth regulators, or IGRs, to stop the flea's life cycle. Effective IGR chemicals include methoprene and pyriproxifen, which can be applied to carpeting and other areas to prevent larvae from hatching or maturing. From egg hatching to maturity, it takes about a month for a flea to complete its life cycle. You'll need to keep treating your pup and home for at least one to two months to ensure you have killed every last one of these bloodsuckers. Just one leftover female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day, which can make the population skyrocket quickly.
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