Walks are an integral part of any dog’s life. One of the health risks they carry is the opportunity to pick up fleas from other animals or the environment.
The coat of a dog is prime real estate for fleas – the perfect place to settle down. A flea infestation can cause dogs no end of irritation and can lead to serious problems if not nipped in the bud.
Find out more about these unpleasant parasites as we dig into the world of the flea and how to get rid of dog fleas.
Common Signs Your Dog Might Have Fleas
Many dog owners say the first sign of fleas can be:
- Their dog scratching, itching or chewing at themselves
- Hair loss and red or irritated skin as a result of the scratching
- Visible fleas moving about or flea dirt (feces) on their dog’s coat
Lots of dogs find fleas very itchy and uncomfortable. You might also notice your dog turning quickly or jumping to nibble at their rear end. There are some dogs, however, that may display no signs of discomfort at all.
How to Recognize Fleas
Adult fleas can measure up to around 3mm in length. They are black, flat, wingless insects. It may be possible to actually see fleas crawling about your pet’s coat. Check the hindquarters (top of the rump near the tail-base) of your dog in particular. This is where fleas often prefer to hang out.
You should examine your dog’s skin carefully for fine black droppings. This ‘flea dirt’ looks a bit like milled black pepper. The best way to detect it is to use a flea comb over a piece of white paper. That makes the small black specks show up when they drop off the comb.
You should also check in your dog’s favorite places around the home. These could be their bed, a well-loved blanket, or their regular, comfy spot on the sofa.
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What Is the Life Cycle of a Flea?
Adult fleas can lay hundreds of eggs in a matter of days. Flea eggs fall off pets onto carpets, bedding and between floorboards in your home. The eggs can hatch into larvae in a matter of days. They’ll then feed on the feces of adults and other organic debris.
Next, the larvae spin a cocoon and pupate. The pupa can stay inside the cocoon for months on end. It will wait for the ideal opportunity to break free and attach itself to a host like a dog, cat or human.
Although an adult flea tends to live in homes for 3 to 6 weeks, in the right kind of conditions their life span could be as little as 2 weeks or so.
What Happens When a Flea Bites?
Fleas are parasites that bite their hosts and then feed on their blood. Adult fleas have mouth-parts that are ideal for piercing skin and sucking blood from their host. Some types of fleas can leap more than a hundred times their own body length in search of a host to attach themselves to.
Flea bites don’t only make your pet itchy and uncomfortable. They can also lead to a variety of other issues.
Allergies and Blood Loss
Fleas can cause severe allergic reactions because some animals are hypersensitive to flea saliva. When dogs scratch they can easily break the skin and that can lead to further infection.
Fleas feed on blood. Young puppies, frail, older dogs or those with a compromised immune system can get severely weak if they lose too much blood to fleas. Although it happens rarely, they could even die due to anemia.
Flea larvae can sometimes get infected with tapeworm eggs. If your dog swallows one, they can become the host for this kind of parasite too. Fleas can also pass on serious diseases to pets.
How to Treat Your Dog Against Fleas
There are plenty of highly effective prescription flea treatments available. Some of the most popular are spot-on products that work by squeezing a few drops of liquid on the back of your pet’s neck. There are also treatments that come in tablet form. Many can kill ticks too.
Some brands claim to begin killing fleas within 2 hours and to continue doing so for 3 months. Others do no harm to adult fleas but stop their eggs from hatching thus breaking the flea’s lifecycle.
If your home has central heating, it makes for a perfect breeding ground for fleas. You may need to continue treating your dog all year round.
Talk to your vet about which products may be best for your pet, especially if they have an allergy to flea saliva. Non-prescription treatments tend to be less effective. These include:
- Flea shampoos and powders
- Flea sprays and collars as well as spot-on and tablet-type products
These do not provide the same kind of longer-term protection as their prescription equivalents.
How to Get Rid of Fleas From Your Home
You should wash all bedding in hot, soapy water. Vacuum carpets and floors thoroughly and remember to empty the bin or throw the vacuum bag away. Steam cleaning the carpet will kill off larvae as well.
If you aim to use an insecticide or other chemical treatment, do so with caution. Many are toxic to humans and pets.
Aerosol sprays tend to be a better choice compared to foggers. That’s because you can direct the spray under beds or other hard-to-reach places that the foggers may be unable to reach.
Persevere with Patience
Choose a product that will kill both adult fleas as well as their larvae and pupae. Keep children and animals away from areas of the house that you spray until the treatment has dried.
It can be easy to think you’ve got rid of the fleas in your home when in reality you haven’t.
Flea eggs can quickly fall off animals and get hidden in rugs, carpets, bedding or cracks between floorboards. They are tiny, oval and white. They can be almost impossible to spot. Perseverance is key.
When to Seek Advice About Fleas
Keeping fleas at bay can be a lifelong challenge for dog owners. Do you still have any questions about dog fleas or they keep coming back? Then schedule a video consultation with one of our qualified vets!
We have a team of highly-qualified vets ready to take your call so that you can get straight on with a bespoke action plan. We have a range of other useful dog-related articles in our blog section. Find out here about ear mites and how to get rid of them.