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Last year we acquired a very small dog for a few weeks; Rascal wasn't being taken care of properly so I took the dog on with the express intention of rehoming him, the family who had him were just seemingly incapable of looking after one tiny handbag sized dog - and considering they had half a dozen children under seven years old and a (mean) German Shepherd I was frightened the poor thing was going to have his back broken under the weight of a stumbling so brought him home with me. Not immediately as he was blatantly flea-ridden, but his (then) 'mum' said she'd treat him over the next couple of days and give the kids time to adjust to the pup leaving.
Now, I'm totally no snob but let me just say that if you'd seen the state of the house and the people in it you'd understand why I wasn't surprised to see Rascal still being bothered by fleas when he got to our house. She'd had a good try and to be fair when I checked Rascal's fur there weren't many to be found - although I'm well aware of how well fleas can hide so I didn't let my guard down! I then found myself in a quandary, I don't like using too many chemicals and this pooch was seriously so small (in size, not age) that I felt particularly uncomfortable about using harsh solutions on his skin. I popped into our local pet shop for advice and ended up coming out with a Gotcha Electronic Flea Comb - the lady behind the counter sung it's praises and as the comb was only £7 I decided it was worth a try.
The principle is very simple. Each metal tooth is lightly electrified, as you comb through the dogs hair the fleas will snag in the teeth of the comb and be killed by the electric current. The comb also lightly electrifies the dog's coat so any larvae will also get enough electricity passing through their bodies to dispatch them and leave your pooch parasite free. In theory.
OK, so I wasn't expecting miracles - I've used the human version of this comb when my daughter caught head lice a while back, that particular electric shock giving comb was absolutely useless but for some reason I though this would be better. Erm, no. The main problem was that Rascal's fleas were crafty little buggers; they realised very quickly that the whole metal part of the comb wasn't charged to give life destroying electric shocks so they simply jumped to the edge of it as I passed it through his fur, it would have been quite comical to watch them jumping back again if I didn't find the little critters so revolting. I fail to see personally how it would be possible to electrify a dogs coat without causing suffering to your beloved pet, and there definitely wasn't a scattering of dead fleas on the floor after I'd given him a good combing, so I suspect this aspect doesn't work as well as Gotcha would like us to think. There's something incredibly satisfying about the sizzle-click sound the comb makes when it comes into contact with a flea and electrocutes it, unfortunately this sound doesn't occur often enough for my liking and several times I'd watch a flea simply leap away from the comb and burrow into another part of Rascal's fur.
For the record Rascal is a Chorkie, part Chihuahua and part Yorkshire Terrier. He's got long wiry hair which easily becomes tangled, especially as he likes nothing more than rolling in the dirt and worming his way underneath the tiniest of shrubs and bushes. His fur needs a lengthy brush before using the comb otherwise a) it would hurt the poor thing and b) the fleas would simply bed down in the tangled portion where it was comfortably warm and definitely safe from the (ahem) deadly comb. It stated on the packaging that it was suitable for dogs with any length of hair but I don't actually think it was very effective for Rascal, I know for a fact that it didn't destroy the fleas as I had been promised because when we came to rehome him we had to state on our advert that this was a rescue dog and would need treating for the fleas we couldn't manage to get rid of.
The comb itself is comfortable enough to hold, the chunky yellow plastic nestling nicely in my hand and allowing me enough free movement to direct it in any direction I need to at the flick of a wrist. It feels quite slick and slippery but actually has a nice feel as I'm holding it and never feels like it's going to slide out of my grip even when I encounter a particularly tight patch of knotting in Rascal's coat.
I can't recommend this comb even though I'd like to, it's such a good idea on paper that I feel a bit cheated that it didn't actually work as well as it should have done. I have since passed the comb on to my mum who has three cats, two of which are mainly house cats but one goes off on her travels regularly and will often come home with fleas after partying with the neighbourhood scruffs - this cat has reasonably short hair but even so mum says the comb has had little or no effect on the fleas that Heidi so regularly brings home. A bit of a let down all round really.
My short haired dog picked up fleas for the first time a couple of months ago. He was so aggravated by them, it was quite hard to watch. At the height of the flea infestation I was at my wits end - I just couldn't get rid of the little buggers, despite investing in numerous different flea treatments and products. One of those products was an electric flea comb...
I was browsing on Amazon for a decent flea comb when I came across the 'Gotcha Flea Killer Comb'. I decided to purchase it as I hadn't seen an electric flea comb before, plus it was really reasonably priced at just £4.39 (currently £5.99) with free delivery. It arrived within a week and was packaged in plastic, backed by cardboard. The comb states 'Gotcha Flea Killer Comb delivers a targeted electrical charge to the coat of cats and dogs, killing fleas on contact. The comb is simple to use and provides effective and chemical-free control of parasitic insect pests'.
The comb has a chunky, plastic, yellow handle. It has an 'On/Off' button (you are advised to switch off when it's not in use) and a small red LED bulb, which lights up when in use. It requires 2 x AAA batteries, which sadly aren't included. The bristles on the comb are about half an inch long and are made of plastic. However half way down the bristles are metal prongs (these are what the fleas get zapped by). It's said to work on ticks too but thankfully that's something we haven't yet encountered.
My dog has a white coat so the fleas were easier to spot. I can't even imagine trying to get rid of them if he had a dark coat. The LED light on the comb proved useful for searching through deep fur and finding the fleas a little easier (I found it easier to do in dim light). I also found that they came to the 'surface' after I'd brushed the comb through his fur, although I expect this would happen with any comb or brush (they get disturbed). My dog didn't mind me using the comb on him, in fact he quite liked it! Every now and again (but not often) the comb would make a 'bzzzzz' noise which he wasn't too keen on, but it didn't bother him too much. I think (or hope) the random buzzing was the comb killing flea eggs, because I never actually saw any fleas getting zapped.
Over about a 3 week period I only ever caught two or three fleas on the comb (despite there being a lot more in his coat) and none of them got zapped. All of the other fleas that I caught were caught by hand. I'm not a horrible person, in fact I love all creatures but I was desperate to get rid of these vile little creatures that had plagued mine and my dogs lives! I began picking the fleas out by hand and putting them on the electric comb (you can't squash them, they refuse to be killed!). It was really fiddly and time consuming. I not only had to get them on to the bristles, but I had to get them on to the small metal bit so ensure they got zapped. When they got zapped, the comb made a little spark and you could smell burning hair - not very pleasant but at least it got rid of them I suppose.
I feel the comb should have been designed better. Maybe all of the bristles should have been made from metal to ensure that it killed everything it touched. It wasn't very effective at catching or killing fleas (unless you're happy to catch them by hand and put them on the comb like me!) and I would recommend just sticking with a regular flea comb - the electric flea comb seems like a bit of a gimmick to me.
I also used a flea collar and flea spray whilst using the electric flea comb, with no luck. The thing which seemed to do the job was a spot-on flea treatment (along with regular combing of the coat, chucking out of bedding and cleaning of the house!).