It’s one of those things no pet owner want’s to discover; your dog has fleas.
These pesky jumping, biting critters can infest your pet, home and yard in no time. In fact, for every flea you see, you can count on thousands more in your indoor and outdoor environments.
These pests not only pose an itching problem for your pooch, but if left untreated fleas can lead to flea bite dermatitis (a severe skin reaction) internal tapeworms and even anemia (low red blood cell count). In addition, these insects will also bite people, leaving you itchy and red.
What are the typical signs of fleas in dogs?
Aside from the obvious persistent and vigorous scratching, your pet may also be showing signs of;
Scabs on skin
Licking or biting at skin
How do I know if my dog has fleas?
If your dog is showing these signs it most likely has picked up fleas. However, to be sure, you can spot the critter droppings on your pet by simply parting its hair and looking for pepper-like “dirt” on its skin.
In severe infestation you will most likely be able to spot one of these pests. A typical flea is flat and brown in color with many legs. It is also super fast and can jump 7 inches straight up (18 cm) and 13 inches (33 cm) horizontally. If you actually manage to nab a flea, the only way to kill it is to crack its hard outer shell between your fingernails.
The Life Cycle of a Flea
To better understand how to eradicate this problem, we must first understand how the flea life cycle works. There are four stages to a flea;
Egg. These are a tad larger than a grain of sand and are white in color. An adult female flea can lay about 40 eggs each day in clumps of 20 on your dog’s fur and skin. These eggs fall off the dog and onto its environment as it moves around. When the conditions are right, the eggs will hatch into the larva stage. This can take anywhere from two days to two weeks.
Larvae. This stage of the flea is almost transparent in appearance and about ¼ inch in size (0.63 cm). It can take weeks to develop into the next stage of life and lives on pre-digested blood (flea dirt). Larvae makes up about 35% of the entire flea population.
Pupae. A sticky protective cocoon protects the flea at this stage which can stay dormant for years if needed. The pupae is usually found in deep carpet fibers or the cracks in hardwood flooring. Pupae cannot be vacuumed up or swept away. In fact, it is even resistant to most chemicals. Ten percent of the flea population is in this stage of life.
Adult. Once the flea emerges from the pupae it is already an adult and ready to consume its first blood meal. Once the meal is taken, the flea will mate and begin to lay eggs within a few days. An adult flea spends the majority of its time on the host feeding, mating and laying eggs. This process can go on for a few weeks or several months depending on the environment.
Getting Rid of Fleas in Your Home
Once you spot the fleas or the symptoms of fleas on your dog, they have already had a chance to lay their eggs and start the infestation process. The key to ridding your home and pet of these pests is persistent consistency.
The first thing you will want to do is vacuum your home thoroughly. This means getting into all those cracks and crevices, under the drapes, and where your pet sleeps or spends most of its indoor time. This should be done on a daily basis in high-traffic areas and weekly in lower traffic areas.
After each vacuuming session, be sure to seal up the vacuum bag in a plastic bag and discard. If you are using a bagless vacuum, be sure to wash out the canister with a made-for-flea cleaner or strong home-use cleanser.
Use a product that is made for flea eradication in the home. It should contain the ingredients of an an adulticide and an insect growth regulator (IGR). These can be listed as Nylar (pyriproxyfen) or methoprene. Use the product according to the instructions.
Wash your dog’s bedding and treat with a pet safe product. Also be sure to treat any other area your dog may have been in like your vehicle, pet carrier or garage.
Getting Rid of Fleas on Your Dog
Of course, there’s no sense treating your home for fleas, if you don’t get rid of these pests on the dog There are many different methods to do this that have been proven effective.
Sprays. These come in a spray pump or an aerosol can.
Dips. This is a stronger method and requires your dog to be literally dipped into a solution that covers the entire animal.
Once-a-Month Prevention. These are drop solutions that are applied to your pet’s neck region on a monthly basis.
Collars. Flea collars may not give your pet the full protection it needs, as they are usually only effective around the head region.
Oral Flea Control. Although a relatively simple preventative treatment, an oral supplement does not take care of the adult fleas, so you will still need to treat your dog with another option.
Prevention. Using a preventative method of treatment will save you a lot of time, hassle and money down the road.
Regardless of which treatment option you choose, do so carefully and thoughtfully. Follow the directions on your chosen method and watch your pet closely for any adverse side effects. If these occur, take your dog to your veterinarian immediately.
Fleas don’t have to be an ongoing problem for you and your dog. Armed with the knowledge you need, you can stop fleas before they begin. If you already suspect a flea problem on your pet, go into the battle with the information and tools you need to win.
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