Labrador Retriever - External ParasitesExternal parasites live on the outside of your dog’s body. They are called para¬sites because they need your dog for life – either for food or to continue their life cycle. Without your dog, these creatures would die. Unfortunately, parasites can also cause your dog great discomfort, irritation, illness, and sometimes even death. It’s very important that you keep an eye on your dog and make sure par¬asites stay off him.


Fleas are about the size of the head of a pin, but the dangers these little bloodsucking pests pose to your dog are formidable. A flea is a crescent-shaped insect with six legs. It is a tremendous jumper. Fleas live by biting a host animal and drinking its blood.
You can see fleas by brushing the dog’s coat against the lie of the hair and looking at the skin. A flea will appear as a tiny darting speck, trying to hide in the hair. Fleas show up best on the dog’s belly, near the genitals. You can also look for them by having your dog lie on a solid-colored sheet and brushing vigorously. If you see salt-and-pepper–type residue falling to the sheet, your Labrador Retriever has fleas. The residue is made up of fecal matter (the “pepper”) and eggs (the “salt”).

Making Your Environment Flea Free
If there are fleas on your dog, there are fleas in your home, yard, and car, even if you can’t see them. Take these steps to combat them.
In your home:
– Wash whatever is washable (the dog bed, sheets, blankets, pillow covers, slipcovers, curtains, etc.).
– Vacuum everything else in your home – furniture, floors, rugs, everything. Pay special attention to the folds and crevices in uphol¬stery, cracks between floorboards, and the spaces between the floor and the baseboards. Flea larvae are sensitive to sunlight, so inside the house they prefer deep carpet, bedding, and cracks and crevices.
– When you’re done, throw the vacuum cleaner bag away – in an outside garbage can.
– Use a nontoxic flea-killing powder, such as Flea Busters or Zodiac FleaTrol, to treat your carpets (but remember, it does not control fleas elsewhere in the house). The powder stays deep in the carpet and kills fleas (using a form of boric acid) for up to a year.
– If you have a particularly serious flea problem, consider using a fog-ger or long-lasting spray to kill any adult and larval fleas, or having a professional exterminator treat your home.

A heavy infestation can kill a dog, especially the very young and very old. Keep in mind that each time a flea bites, it eats a drop or two of blood. Multiply numerous bites a day by the number of fleas, and you can see how dangerous an infestation can be.
Fleas’ biting their host can also cause other problems. Many Labs are allergic to the flea’s saliva and scratch each bite until a sore develops. This is called flea allergy dermatitis and is a serious problem in many areas of the country. Fleas can also carry disease, such as plague, and are the intermediary host for tapeworms, an internal parasite.
To reduce the flea population, you need to treat the dog and his environment (see the box above). If you treat only the dog and do not treat the house, yard, and car, your Lab will simply become reinfested. Flea eggs can live in the envi¬ronment for years, waiting for the right conditions to hatch. This is not an insect that can be ignored!

In your car:
– Take out the floor mats and hose them down with a strong stream of water, then hang them up to dry in the sun.
– Wash any towels, blankets, or other bedding you regularly keep in the car.
– Thoroughly vacuum the entire interior of your car, paying special attention to the seams between the bottom and back of the seats.
– When you’re done, throw the vacuum cleaner bag away—in an out¬side garbage can.
In your yard:
– Flea larvae prefer shaded areas that have plenty of organic material and moisture, so rake the yard thoroughly and bag all the debris in tightly sealed bags.
– Spray your yard with an insecticide that has residual activity for at least thirty days. Insecticides that use a form of boric acid are non-toxic. Some newer products contain an insect growth regulator (such as fenoxycarb) and need to be applied only once or twice a year.
– For an especially difficult flea problem, consider having an extermi¬nator treat your yard.
– Keep your yard free of piles of leaves, weeds, and other organic debris. Be especially careful in shady, moist areas, such as under bushes.

If you have any questions about what is safe to use on your Labrador Retriever, call your veterinarian or groomer. If you have questions about how to use a particular product, call the manufacturers. They will be more than willing to talk to you and explain exactly how the product should be used.


As you examine your Lab for fleas, also check for ticks that may have lodged in the ears or in the hair at the base of the ear, the armpits, or around the genitals. Don’t just grab and pull or the tick’s head may separate from the body. If the head remains in the skin, an infection or abscess may result, and veterinary treatment may be required.

How to Get Rid of a Tick
Although the new generation of flea fighters are partially effec¬tive in killing ticks once they are on your dog, they are not 100 percent effective and will not keep ticks from biting your dog in the first place. During tick season (which, depending on where you live, can be spring, summer, and/or fall), examine your dog every day for ticks. Pay particular attention to your dog’s neck, behind the ears, the armpits, and the groin.
When you find a tick, use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick as close as possible to the dog’s skin and pull it out using firm, steady pressure. Check to make sure you get the whole tick (mouth parts left in your dog’s skin can cause an infection), then wash the wound and dab on some antibiotic ointment. Watch for signs of inflammation.
Ticks carry very serious diseases that are transmittable to humans, so dispose of the tick safely. Never crush it between your fingers. Don’t flush it down the toilet either, because the tick will survive the trip and infect another animal. Instead, use the tweezers to place the tick in a tight-sealing jar or plastic dish with a little alcohol, put on the lid, and dispose of the container in an outdoor garbage can. Wash the tweezers thoroughly with hot water and alcohol.

A word of caution: Don’t use your fingers or fingernails to pull out ticks. Ticks can carry a number of diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and several others, all of which can be very serious for both dogs and humans. A couple of weeks after removing ticks from her dogs (using her fingers), a friend of mine came down with viral encephalitis, a serious disease. After quizzing her, her doctor believed she got the disease from the ticks. Fortunately, she is now okay, but a pair of tweezers would have saved her and her husband a lot of pain and worry
Although some flea products are advertised as being able to kill ticks, too, the best way to make sure your Lab is tick-free is to examine his body regularly. Make it part of a daily exam.


Mites are tiny creatures. Experts say we all have them – humans, canines, and all other creatures, including the ones who live in the ocean. The mites that infest your dog usually do so without causing a problem. However, when the dog is stressed or his immune system is threatened, sometimes the mites can proliferate out of control. Some dogs may also have sensitivities to mites.
Sarcoptic mange is caused by a mite that bites your dog. Your Lab will itch, scratch horribly, and you will see tiny red bumps and patchy, crusty areas on his body, legs, and stomach. Your veterinarian will need to treat him, but this con¬dition usually responds very well to treatment.
Demodectic mange is caused by a different mite. Often dogs with this do not itch and sometimes act as if there is no problem at all. The first spots usually show up on the dog’s face as small, moth-eaten–looking spots where the hair is missing. Again, the veterinarian needs to treat this mite infestation.

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