Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.
German Shepherds are undoubtedly beautiful creatures. However, that doesn't mean that they don’t run the risk of falling victim to parasites like fleas and lice. Fleas and lice are not only uncomfortable for your dog, but they can also be nuisances around the house. Fleas seem to be able to make their way onto any cloth surface in the house, and they can leave annoying bites.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the issue of fleas and lice in German Shepherds so you can learn a bit about how to prevent these pests from targeting your pup and what you can do if they do manage to get a bite.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Fleas?
Fleas are relatively easily identified—especially compared to other dog-related problems like disease. Unfortunately, because of their thick coats, fleas and lice can lay nestled in the shepherd's fur for quite some time before they start spreading to other areas of the house or become visible.
Even if you can’t see the fleas or lice, your dog might display a number of symptoms that could indicate that they have fleas:
- Constantly scratching, licking or biting their skin (attempting to get an itchy bug off).
- Hair loss or patchy fur from excessive scratching or otherwise trying to get fleas or lice off.
- Exposed skin, red skin, raw-looking skin from scratching.
- Tapeworms in the dog’s feces can also indicate a flea infestation.
Even if you don’t think that your dog has fleas, it’s a good idea to check their fur regularly. Fleas can be picked up in a lot of places—especially from contact with other dogs—and it’s important to check and double-check your dog at least once a week to make sure to intervene before they reproduce too much.
Flea and Lice Complications
Having fleas is annoying, certainly. However, if a flea infestation is left untreated, it can lead to a number of more serious problems for your dog:
- Infections: If fleas are biting your dog, they are going to have several small, exposed wounds that could allow bacteria into the body. This can lead to a number of serious health problems.
- Tapeworms: Fleas are a host to tapeworms, so if your dog ingests any of the fleas that they try to pull off their skin, they might get worms.
- Anemia: Your dog might experience anemia if they lose a lot of blood from excessive biting.
Removing and Preventing Infestations
The first thing that you’re going to want to do is minimize the chance that your dog will actually get an infestation. This means checking them regularly, especially after they come into contact with other dogs that are known to have fleas.
If your dog has contracted them, the first thing to do is recognize the problem. Depending on the severity, the treatment required will be different.
- Light infestation: This is the earliest phase of an infestation, and you’ll probably only notice a small number of fleas or lice on your pup. This is the best stage to catch an infestation since it usually means that you can get rid of it with simple products like shampoos or homemade sprays.
- Moderate infestation: At this phase, there are probably eggs for the bugs in your dog’s fur and around the house. They might not be crawling all over your furniture yet, but they’re on their way. Using prescribed medication can be a good way to get rid of fleas at this stage.
- Serious infestation: In this case, you’ve got fleas all over your house or your dog is completely covered. You’re probably getting bitten quite a bit, and your Shepherd is probably scratching off a lot of hair and possibly bleeding or scratching itself raw. You might actually need to get a mass-produced chemical/removal product because natural remedies might not be strong enough.
If your dog is scratched or bleeding, it's probably time to see a vet because you wouldn’t want the chemicals in these products going straight into your dog’s bloodstream. Certain products like Frontline are powerful and can prevent and stop a serious infestation. Frontline drops contain fipronil and (S)-methoprene—fairly active and aggressive substances. Talk to you vet about using those products and how to use them in the safest possible way.
Home Flea and Louse Removal Remedies
You’ll probably want to avoid using any of the synthetic, chemical-based products for getting rid of an infestation unless it’s quite serious. These products may kill bugs, but they also kill the healthy bacteria living on your dog’s skin and may do damage to their cells.
When in doubt talk to a vet. Often it is easier to use a "chemical spray" or drops like Frontline for a very short duration. You'll be sure the fleas are death in no time and prevent a real infestation. These substances can be quite aggressive so they need to be handled with extra care and only be used we really needed.
But for those looking for something else, fortunately, natural remedies abound for fighting fleas and lies.
- Water: Fleas may be repelled by the simple act of taking your dog swimming or bathing them. They don’t stick very well to wet skin and hair and many of them will be washed away.
- Essential oils: Essential oils are widely regarded for their ability to help ward off bugs like lice and fleas. Many of them work for this purpose, but they are a bit potent on their own. It’s a good idea to dilute them properly per a professional recommendation before applying them to your dog’s fur. Always make sure that the essential oils you are using are pet-safe and that your pet does not ingest them.
In addition to the above tactics, you should make sure that you regularly take care of your dog and your home to prevent fleas from emerging. Vacuum regularly, maintain your lawn and give your dog baths at least once or twice a week.
- Palika L. and Albert T. Your German Shepherd Puppy Month by Month, 2nd Edition: Everything You Need to Know at Each State to Ensure Your Cute and Playful Puppy. Alpha, 2016, 352 p.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2019 Sam Shepards