5 Important Things To Do If Your Pet Has FLEAS

Hello, readers! So, if you’ve stuck around for the last week or two, you’ve been with me as we hammered the topic of fleas and flea prevention into dirt (flea dirt, to be exact).

Today, we’re going to wrap up with something short, sweet, and important! Many people (myself included) find themselves in a flea induced panic at least once in their life. Here is a quick guide to help you keep your head on straight so that you can help your pets and get rid of your fleas ASAP.

If you notice that your pet has fleas, you should:

  1. Don’t panic. Take a deep breath, then proceed to step two.
  2. Get some flea prevention. Call your vet. If you’ve been to the vet within the last 6-12 months, they should be able to get you some effective flea prevention that starts working within hours. As a reminder, I recommend these products for dogs and cats. I do NOT recommend these products.
  3. Treat Your Environment. Remember that a large portion of a flea problem is actually in your environment- your yard, your carpet, your furniture. Call an exterminator for the best recommendations on how to treat your home in a way that is safe for your family and also effective. If you can’t hire an exterminator, make sure you follow the instructions on over-the-counter pesticide product labels carefully. Wash your bedding, steam clean your carpet and furniture, and vacuum frequently.
  4. Keep using flea prevention for at least 4 months… and then year round. It takes at least 4 months to get rid of an active flea infestation, as fleas in the environment may hatch, hop on your pet, and start the process all over again. After the infestation has resolved, I recommend year-round flea prevention for all pets. Why treat the problem again when you can simply prevent it?
  5. Watch Out for Flea Related Illnesses. Usually, these are fairly mild. Tapeworms are very common, and they are spread when an animal ingests a flea while licking/chewing. Tapeworms can be easily identified when an owner sees small, rice-like worms around the pet’s rear end or on bedding. They can cause GI upset and, in severe cases, malnutrition. More serious illnesses, like bacterial infections spread by fleas, can also occur. If your pet is ill and has had fleas recently, make sure you tell your vet so that they can help diagnose the problem.

Thanks for reading! How have you dealt with flea infestations in the past? How long did it take to see an improvement in your pet and your environment?

If you enjoyed this post, please like, comment, subscribe, or share! Check back on Thursday, where we will be tackling a new (but still itchy) topic, environmental allergies in pets!


My Flea Confession (and what you can learn from it)

Guys, I have a confession to make.

A few months ago, I was sitting on the couch with my fiancé watching TV. One of my cats, Thursday, hopped up in my lap. We have tortoise shell cats that are extremely sassy (we call it their “tortitude,”), and so it is a special occasion if they want attention. I seized the day and began petting her, only to become horrified a few seconds later.


“How could this happen?” I found myself thinking, “My cats only stay indoors, I have hard wood floors, and both of my dogs are on flea prevention!”

I immediately started laughing. I had just used the same excuses that my clients rattle off day in and day out, and I definitely knew better. I had been telling my clients for two years that they needed to have all of their animals on flea prevention- even the ones that are “indoor only.” And now, I realized that I wasn’t practicing what I preach!

It was humbling, to say the least.

Luckily, I immediately applied Bravecto for cats (a topical feline flea prevention that lasts for an entire THREE months), and the problem went away. I am extra careful now to make sure that I give the torties their flea and heartworm prevention every month, at the same time I give my dogs theirs. I hope to never be in a state of ‘flea-nial” ever again!

FLEA-NIAL: The state of denial a pet owner is in when they say “my pet doesn’t have fleas” (and their pet definitely has fleas).

Now, you can learn from my mistake. Here are a few reasons why ALL mammals in the household need to be on flea prevention:

  1. You can track fleas, flea eggs, or other parasites into your home. Fleas can come into your house on you or your shoes. Don’t worry- they won’t parasitize humans, our body temperature is just a little too cold for them.
  2. Your dogs- even if they are on flea prevention- can track parasites into your home. Many preventions need the flea to bite the pet in order to kill the flea. This means that a flea could “hitch a ride” on an indoor/outdoor pet, come in, jump off, and colonize your indoor-only pets.
  3. It only takes two fleas to start a family. Listen, kids. When a mommy flea and a daddy flea love each other very much… But, seriously. A female flea can lay over 500 eggs in her lifetime. And those fleas can lay 500 eggs. Two fleas can easily start an infestation.
  4. Dormant stages of the flea’s life cycle can live in the environment for MONTHS. I usually tell my clients that it takes at least 4 months to get rid of an active flea infestation in your home. That is because certain life stages of the flea, especially the pupal stage, can live in your environment for up to 4 months. Because of this, you must use your products continuously and year round to prevent reinfection of your pet.
  5. Fleas can survive the winter. Especially if they are indoors, on an inside only pet, or laying dormant in your home. I see almost as many animals suffering from flea infestation in the winter as I do in the summer. I suspect that this is because owners are not as diligent as applying flea prevention in the winter time.


Picture of the flea life cycle: borrowed from Eli Lilly and Trifexis.

Now, hopefully you have learned from my stupidity and now know the reasons WHY you need flea prevention, even in indoor pets. If you liked this post, please comment, share, or join the conversation on twitter @KatieHoganDVM

You won’t want to miss my post on Thursday- we will be talking about which flea preventions work well, which work some of the time, which are a waste of money, and which can actually be harmful to your four-legged friend.

Question for readers: Have you ever had a problem with fleas in your home? How did you finally manage to get ahead of the problem (or are you still struggling with it)!?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in my professional veterinary career, to apply to my own pets. I also work at a veterinary clinic that sells flea and heartworm prevention. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers and thier animals. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


What Vaccines Does My Puppy Really Need?

*This is an excerpt from the first draft of my EBook, “Everything Your Veterinarian Wants You to Know About Your New Puppy,” coming in August 2018.*

This is where things can get a little complicated, as the standard varies even among veterinarians. The best source for what is best for your puppy is your veterinarian. The information in this post is condensed to an easy checklist that you can download for free Right here.

Basically, most puppies need four sets of shots, starting at six weeks of age and continuing every three weeks until finished. This means that your puppy will have two sets of shots after he or she is 12 weeks old, which is important as 12 weeks is around the time when the immunity they received from their mother disappears.

Core Vaccinations

“Core” vaccines are defined as vaccines that are recommended for all dogs and puppies, regardless of their lifestyle or habits. Core vaccines include DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza) and rabies. DHPP protects against four serious, often fatal, diseases that are transmissible between dogs, and the rabies vaccination is required by law in almost all states.

I recommend a bordatella vaccine for all my canine patients, as well. Bordatella was once called “kennel cough,” but now people are starting to call it “canine cough,” as it is highly contagious and your pet doesn’t have to be in a kennel to get it. Canine cough can be transmitted by encountering any respiratory secretions- so dogs that leave their house for walks, have a fence line that shares a border with other pets, or that go to the groomer or dog park should be vaccinated for it.


Other Vaccinations- Lepto, Flu, and Lyme Disease

Vaccines that aren’t considered core include leptospirosis, canine influenza, and Lyme disease. You should ask your veterinarian if, besides the standard vaccines series, if he recommends any additional vaccines for your puppy.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that is spread in the urine of wild animals and livestock. It is very significant as it can be spread to humans, too. If you live in the southeastern United States, live on a farm or other rural area, have a dog that likes to swim, have a hunting dog, or live in a household with immunocompromised people (the elderly, young children, pregnant women, transplant recipients, etc), I highly recommend vaccinating for this disease.

Canine Influenza is “the dog flu.” It is becoming more and more common in areas of the united states. It is a respiratory disease, much like human influenza, and is spread easily via respiratory secretions. If your dog comes into contact with other dogs- at a boarding kennel, dog park, training class, groomer- I highly recommend vaccinating for this disease.

Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease, meaning that dogs contract it once they are bitten by an infected tick. Vaccination and tick control are two ways to prevent this disease. In the United States, at risk areas for Lyme disease include the northeast and the upper Midwest. If you live in these areas, I highly encourage you to vaccinate for Lyme disease and adopt a strong tick control program. If you live anywhere else, one or the other will likely prevent it.

What do I do?

Personally, my dogs are vaccinated for their core vaccines (including canine cough) plus leptospirosis and canine influenza. They often go with me to hike and ride horses, so they could potentially contact urine from infected animals or swim in an infected pond. They also come with me to work and enjoy going to the dog park. I do not vaccinate my pets for Lyme disease as we do not live in an area where the disease is very common, and I keep my dogs on tick prevention year-round

If you liked this post- please share, comment, or subscribe to my blog!

Question for Readers: Has your pet every contracted a preventable illness? Which vaccines does your vet recommend for your dog?

Resources for Pet Owners:


Veterinary Myth Busters: Yes, Your Pet DOES Need Heartworm Prevention

Hello, friends and pet owners!

Welcome to the second episode of a mini-blog series I am hosting called Veterinary Myth Busters. Today, we will be talking about heartworm prevention, and how most veterinarians in the US recommend it for all dogs, monthly, year-round.

I have this conversation at least once a day:

“My niece has been around dogs all of her life, and she told me that she’s never had a problem with heartworms and that I don’t need to spend money on heartworm prevention. Do I really need to be giving my dog that pill every month?”

The short answer: Yes, unless you feel like gambling. 

This subject is a big matter of debate. Between veterinarians, dog people, and snake oil salesmen who spout “holistic” remedies and preventions, it can be hard for well-meaning pet owners to decipher the truth. Different areas of the country have different levels or risk, but heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 of the United States. So, the truth is: no matter what state you live in, heartworm disease is a real threat to your pet, and you can prevent it for less than $10 per month.

heartworm incidence map

“Well, I don’t need heartworm prevention because…”

These excuses are endless (and infuriating)! The pattern and spread of heartworm disease is highly variable and unpredictable based on a myriad of factors. I’ve seen indoor dogs, outdoor dogs, small breed dogs, large breed dogs, pets with rich owners, pets with poor owners, and even cats come up positive for heartworm infection. The fact is- weird, improbable things sometimes happen. If you have an indoor pet, he is unlikely to get heartworm disease, but he is not immune. Heartworm disease is easy to prevent, and difficult to treat and predict. Don’t gamble with it!

“But I don’t want to put toxic chemicals in my pet’s body…”

Heartworm prevention medications are safe, effective, and extensively tested before they hit the market. These products have been licensed by the FDA and have been through testing as rigorous as the testing human medications must go through. Health problems due to heartworm disease are much more likely to cause illness in your dog. Once an animal gets heartworm disease, the treatment is a course of expensive and painful injections. These injections must be given deep in the epaxial (back) muscles, and can come with significant side effects. Personally, I would much rather give my dog a meat flavored chewable (that she enjoys taking) once a month than subject her to a series of three painful injections, over two months of “cage rest,” and possible life-long side effects from having heartworm disease.

“But, Doc, I can’t remember to give a pill every month!”

You’re in luck! There is even an injection licensed to prevent heartworm disease. One injection, given by your vet, under the skin of your dog every 6 months is all that is needed. If you’re dog doesn’t like taking pills, there are even topical products which prevent heartworms (as well as intestinal worms and fleas).

In summary, there is really no good excuse for your pet to not be up to date on heartworm prevention! The benefits definitely trump the risks, as heartworms (much like the mosquitoes that harbor them) SUCK! 

Thanks for reading this blog post. Join us on Sunday, where we will be busting myths and talking about all the reasons why YOU need to spay your dog.

Want to get in on the conversation? Tweet @KatieHoganDVM or comment below:

Have you ever had an experience with heartworm disease?

Do you feel like your veterinarian has thoroughly explained WHY your dog needs heartworm prevention? 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. However, I am an employee of Noah’s Ark Animal Clinics, which sells heartworm test and prevention products to pet owners. Regardless, I strive to only recommend medical services and products whose indications are evidence based and that are necessary to ensure the health of your pet. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Resources for pet owners:







Veterinary Myth Busters: Part One (an overview)

Greetings, earthlings! Welcome to the first post in a mini series I am doing called:

Veterinary Myth Busters

I tweeted over the weekend, asking my veterinarian friends what common veterinary medicine myths (#VetMedMyths) annoy them the most. Today, we’ll go over the top 3 from the list and briefly go over why they are not true. Later on, we will unpack each topic in a little more detail to break the cycle of misinformation that permeates the internet. Stay tuned so that you can be the most informed pet owner at the dog park!


“Grain free food is better for dogs, because most are allergic to corn.”

Submitted by: Me, @KatieHoganDVM

I hear this one daily in practice, and it drives me nuts. Most dogs with food allergy are not allergic to the grain in the diet, but to the protein (the beef, chicken, turkey, etc) in the diet. Grain free diets often come coupled with novel protein sources (proteins that your dog’s immune system hasn’t seen before), and so when they make the switch to grain free they see an improvement because they changed the protein, not the grain.

The “corn is bad for dogs” myth has been perpetuated by the excellent marketing strategies of certain pet food companies. These guys claim to sell “premium” products fit for the wolf living in your living room. Sorry, people, but your pug mix is not a wolf! Even if he was, corn would still not be bad for him. Corn is quite nutritious for dogs and other species. I encourage you to talk to your veterinarian, do your research and feed a high-quality food with meat as the first ingredient on the list. Some dogs do well on grain free food- but for most dogs (80-90%), you’re wasting your money.


“I don’t need heartworm and flea prevention because…”

Submitted by: @BalyBoo

You would not believe some of the ways people finish this sentence! The people who say this think that their pet is immune to the need for parasite prevention because they live in a gated community, their dog never interacts with other pets, they spray for mosquitos, they have hardwood floors, they’ve never had a problem before…. The list goes on and on! Later in this series, we’ll break down the many excuses and bust each one of them individually. But, for now, we’ll keep it short and sweet: Heartworms are spread by mosquitos, who can quite literally survive anywhere. Unless you keep your dog or cat in a plastic bubble…. he needs heartworm prevention!

As for fleas, they are extremely resilient, and can be spread by wildlife and feral/outdoor cats. In my practice, I see as many animals suffering because of fleas in the winter as I do in the summer. If your pet has fleas, you need at least four months of flea prevention to get rid of the current infestation. And if your pet goes outside or you have other pets that go outside? All pets in the household need flea prevention. Remember the old saying- an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!


“Spaying my dog will make her sick”

Submitted by: @TiffanyHeaton

I hear this one a lot. In fact, it is 100% the other way around! Spaying your female dog before her first heat cycle reduces her risk of mammary cancer to a 0.5% chance compared to the 25% chance (1 in 4 dogs) for females who are not spayed or spayed after their second heat cycle. Breast cancer accounts for over half of all cancers in female dogs, and by spaying early you nearly eliminate this possibility!

Another common condition in older, unspayed female pets is pyometra- a serious infection that can be life-threatening and requires immediate (and very expensive) emergency surgery. We see this condition (as well as mammary cancer) in feline patients as well. Simply put, you will greatly increase your pet’s life expectancy and quality of life if you spay her before she is 6 months old!

Thanks for joining us for part one of the #VeterinaryMythBusters series. Check back on Sunday, where we will be investigating the grain free food myth!

Do you have a myth you’d like to submit? Want to get in on the conversation? Comment below or tweet @KatieHoganDVM



Resources and References:
Photo of dogs book Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-holding-dogs-a-miscellany-book-880720/
Photo of dog eating fruit by Rarnie McCudden from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-white-dalmatian-dog-eating-fruits-770363/
Photo of little girl and dog by Kai-Chieh Chan from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-of-a-smiling-young-woman-with-dog-332974/
Photo of dog with bow by Caio Resende from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/dog-pet-close-up-view-dogs-61372/
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”