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Dr. Keaton Smith is a graduate of the University Of Kentucky College Of Agriculture with a doctorate ...

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Dr. Smith's Journal

I chat about veterinary medicine and the life of a country animal doctor.

Avoid "The Look"


So, yesterday I was looking at a dog in my exam room when I made a horrible statement that got me in a lot of trouble. After I said it, I got “The Look.”

No, I’m not talking about “The Look” my wife gives me when I leave muddy footprints on her clean floor. It is also not the same look I get from my kids when I tell them a Dad Joke. This is what I call “The Client Look.” Yes, you know the one I’m talking about. You cross your arms, or you put your hands on your hips and proceed to tilt your head. Then, a little “no” action from your noggin, showing that what I said isn’t right because the guy at the pet store told you something different. Also, your lips hang down while your eyes narrow in suspicion wondering what I’m going to try and sell you next. And of course, the eyebrows raise in disbelief that I would dare say something so absurd.

What could I have said to evoke such a grandly energized response?

I said, “Your dog is covered in fleas.”

Here are the top immediate responses that I get following “The My-Dog-Has-Fleas Look.”

  1. “No way!”
  2.  “Are you kidding me?”
  3.  “Well, I haven’t seen any. Where?”
  4. “I just gave him/her a bath before we came in here. He/she must have picked them up from your hospital.”
  5. “I took him to the groomer last month. Must have come from there.”
  6. “It’s my neighbor’s cats. He won’t take care of them.”
  7.  “I’ve been putting those drops on I got at the store every month.”
  8.  “He has been wearing that flea collar for 6 months. I guess it finally quit working.”
  9.  “I have been giving him garlic every day in his food. It’s supposed to repel fleas!”
  10.  “The guy at the store told me that after the first frost there wouldn’t be any more fleas.”
  11.  “The essential oil diffuser is empty. The fleas always come back when it’s empty.”
  12. “Well, my dog ain’t been scratching.”
  13. “Would you mind having one of your techs check ‘cause you are kinda old now and I don’t think you see too good.”
  14. “He NEVER goes outside! How is that possible?”
  15.  “I gave him that stuff you sold me last time I was here.”

These are real conversations. Seriously, I have heard it all but fleas don’t care about what we think. They are warriors. Fleas are battle-ready enemies that live in a society of blood-sucking monsters, ready to strike fear and terror into the hearts of dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, and people without discrimination. They are small and sneaky. They hitch rides on pant legs and shoes. They sit in the grass waiting for months in a cocoon for an opportunity to strike. If you want to avoid this conversation with a veterinarian—if you want to avoid giving “The Look”—then you must be diligent and faithful.

Remember these things about fleas:

  1. They do just fine in your warm house during the winter. They will sit by your fire roasting blood cells on marshmallow sticks and singing “The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati.”(It’s one of their favorites.)
  2. All flea medications are not equal and you get what you pay for, sorry. If your cup of coffee cost more than your flea prevention, then you might be a redneck dog owner.
  3. Your dog did NOT pick up fleas from your veterinarian’s or your groomer’s place of business. No, your dog already had those bad boys. This means they are in your home. (I’m not saying your dog couldn’t pick up a hitchhiker passing by that other client who just gave me “The Look,” but I’m looking at the mess from the block party cause that hitchhiker brought the cheese ball to.)
  4. Prevention is worth a pound of cure. For every flea you see, there are 1000 you don’t see, YET. They are coming. Just like the Good Lord Above, they are coming, whether you believe in them or not.
  5. There is no “shot” for your dog’s fleas. There is a shot for cats, but it’s only effective if EVERY CAT in your home is treated (and all other pets are kept flea-free as well).
  6. Products that treat fleas do not last forever. Some last a month, others last 3, 6, or 8 months depending upon environmental factors. That’s what we do at the veterinarian’s office: we make good recommendations that will help you go to war with fleas. There are even phone apps to remind you when to give your pet another flea treatment, take it to the groomer, teach it another word in French…
  7. Giving your dog a flea bath will kill the fleas on your dog. Mostly by drowning them. However, there is ZERO residual prevention or treatment. So, as soon as you towel dry Fido and he walks across your infested carpet or goes back in that infested doghouse, he will once again be covered. Yep, just that fast.

Here’s the deal. Just because it is winter doesn’t mean you don’t have to treat your pets for fleas. Every flea-infested stray cat, squirrel, and mouse is looking for the tiniest hole to crawl under your porch, into your attic, or into that tiny crawlspace under your floor that isn’t even big enough to store your Bill Monroe record collection. You absolutely must continue prevention measures!

It’s good for your pet. It’s good for your home. It’s good for your veterinarian because I will avoid “The Look.”

That Dog Can Run!
Finding the Lost

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