What are Fleas?
Fleas are very adept at jumping from environment, to host, to pets and people. One female flea can produce up to 50 eggs per day, and the eggs will hatch within 2 to 5 days. The larvae feed and crawl around for up to 2 weeks, if the environment is suitable (they love humidity) and then build cocoons in which they pupate into adults. With the right temperature, fully formed fleas can potentially survive in their cocoons for up to 12 months. Eradicating an infestation must be done thoroughly in order to get rid of these pests. A loving and readily available veterinarian can help you successfully rid your dog and your home of fleas.Adult Fleas are small wingless parasites that feed on the blood of our pets. Picked up from the surrounding environment, fleas can quickly become a very irritating infestation of biting pests. Their saliva can cause your dog to become extremely itchy. The fact that they can trigger secondary bacterial infections, and can initiate serious skin reactions is a good reason to attend to a flea infestation as soon as you are aware.
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Symptoms of Fleas in Dogs
Though some of our canine friends may not have a severe reaction to fleas, many will be extremely uncomfortable and irritated. Your dog may show the following signs listed here.
- Pruritus (intense itching and licking of the skin)
- There may be additional rubbing and chewing of the skin
- Scabbing or redness
- Skin sores
- Flea allergic dermatitis (FAD) which is an allergic reaction to the flea saliva
- Hair loss
- Restless behavior
- Visible evidence of fleas scurrying about, particularly in warm areas (between legs and on the belly)
- Copper colored specks are flea dirt (flea feces to be exact), and if you put the specks on a wet paper towel they will turn red; this is digested blood
- Flea dirt can be found on dog bedding also
- Pale gums, for example, puppies with a severe infestation can become anemic from loss of blood
There are over 2,500 types of fleas worldwide, of which 94% feed on mammals. Four types of fleas found in North America are listed here.
- Ctenocephalides felis
- Known as the cat flea
- This is the most common type of flea found on dogs in N.A.
- This is the most widespread type of flea on earth
- Affects rodents, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, opossums, dogs, cats, humans, and other mammals
- Ctenocephalides canis
- Mostly found on wild animals
- A study in Georgia, USA found only 24% of fleas found on dogs were of the canis type
- In northern USA, can be found most often on coyotes, foxes, and wolves
- Echidnophaga gallinacea
- Found on ground squirrels and poultry
- Oropsylla montana
- Found on ground squirrels
Causes of Fleas in Dogs
Fleas will not only make you and especially your furry family member miserable, but they can also be the cause of tapeworm (when the flea is ingested), flea-borne typhus (carried by feral cats and wild animals that may frequent your yard), cat flea rickettsiosis, and flea allergic dermatitis. Eradicating a flea infestation can be difficult. The veterinarian will be able to advise on how to reduce the risk of flea contraction.
- Squirrels, rodents, cats, and dogs can drop fleas on the ground, which in turn can jump on your pet
- Fleas and flea eggs can easily drop on the floors of your house, infecting all members of the household
- Mice that may make their way into the house can bring in fleas
- Fleas populate and hatch on furniture and bedding, and when your dog lies there, the flea life cycle continues
- All life cycles (eggs, larvae, pupae and flea) must be eliminated from your home environment
- Dog runs, dog houses, and kennels can all harbour fleas
Diagnosis of Fleas in Dogs
If you see your dog itching his skin and generally looking uncomfortable, you can check for fleas. Better yet, visit the animal clinic and the veterinarian will definitively diagnose a flea infestation. After discussing your pet’s recent medical history and travel of late, the veterinarian will examine your canine family member to look for signs of skin irritation and flea bites. She will also know exactly where to check for fleas, in the warm areas of your dog’s body. The veterinary caregiver may also use a flea comb that will easily remove flea dirt. The flea feces, when placed on a wet paper towel, will turn coppery red, confirming the presence of fleas.
The veterinarian may choose to do skin testing to eliminate other causes of itching, and to confirm if your pet has flea allergic dermatitis as well.
Treatment of Fleas in Dogs
For effective flea elimination, carefully follow the advice of the veterinary care team. Noncompliance with instructions is one of the main reasons that fleas can seem impossible to get rid of. It will be difficult, there is no denying that. It can be done, though, with the proper tools and diligent attitude.
The first place the veterinarian will tell you to start is with treatment for your dog. The following methods may be used for flea eradication and control.
- Flea shampoo might be recommended. The shampoo will kill the fleas on the body, and you will see them fall out of the fur as you rinse your dog. Once the shampoo has been rinsed, the effect quickly wears off. Therefore, shampoo is best used in combination with another product.
- Insect growth regulators are products used to prevent the fleas from reproducing and completing the life cycle. The IGR’s provide residual protection and need to be applied less often. They have low toxicity and are safe for animals and use around children.
- Topical liquids can take several hours, and sometimes up to 3 days to spread well enough to eliminate the pests.
- Insect development inhibitors (IDI) may be administered orally. There are also injectable products that can be used.
- Flea collars and powders are much less effective than the treatments discussed above.
- The veterinarian may prescribe medication to control skin irritation and soothe the itch.
- Keep the veterinary caregiver informed of the progress and be sure to contact her if you are concerned about the potential side effects of medications, liquids, or any aspect of the treatment.
Recovery of Fleas in Dogs
We have discussed the treatment for your canine buddy, and the fact that treatment must start with your pet. Equally important is the treatment that must be continued once you return home from the clinic.
Your home environment must be dealt with immediately after your pet has been treated, and if possible, do not bring your dog inside until the house has been cleaned and sanitized, and the flea eliminating product has been applied. Be certain to treat all household pets.
The veterinarian will discuss the best options for the home with you. Choices may be a residual pesticide, or a product that is shorter lasting but requires more applications. Areas that will need attention are cracks in the floors, bedding, furniture, closets, and under baseboards and heaters.
Wash your dog’s bedding several times over the next weeks and months. (An infestation may take between six weeks and three months to eliminate.) Vacuum daily, taking care to remove the vacuum bag, placing it in a sealed bag which must be thrown in the outside trash.
The veterinary care team may recommend using products outdoors as well, in your pet’s favorite areas. You can discuss with the veterinary specialist whether this is necessary. Without question, keep your yard neat and clean, in hopes of making it less attractive to flea carrying wild animals who may be looking for food or a place to nest.
With the help of the veterinarian, you can rid your dog and home of fleas. Use only veterinarian approved products for efficacy and safety. Prevention is a wise decision for the future. Speak to the veterinarian about recommendations to prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworm in one easy product.
Cost of Fleas in Dogs
The first thing you want to do is give your pet a bath using a flea killing shampoo. These special shampoos can cost between $10 and $20 depending on the brand you choose. Or, you can try bathing your pet with original Dawn dish soap ($2 at most drugstores). Once your pet is completely dry, apply a flea medication on the back of their neck, out of licking range. These medications are based on the age and weight of your pet, the brand you choose, and how many tubes you need. There are a variety of options for your pets ranging in price from $50 to $100 per box. Next, treat your house and yard. A good cleaning top to bottom and extensive vacuuming will help. Use a carpet spray which sells for $15 to $30 per bottle at most pet stores for your carpets and furniture where the eggs will be hiding. Treat your yard with a spray to help stop the fleas at the source. The Advantage brand is a good bargain at $20 to $28 per container. The total cost of flea killing should range from $99 to $180.
Fleas Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog has fleas.. we have tired the shampoo, flea collar and spraying the inside
of pin.. she lays in sand all the time.. not sure what to do next.. there mostly on her lower belly.. don’t really see any rash on her..
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Hello, my dog has been scratching a lot. He seems like he is in pain when he does. I noticed that his skin is irritated, also I believe that due to this he is not active. My dog also doesn't really want to eat anymore. I wonder if his condition is more than a flea infection.
There are many possible causes for a dog to itch, many of which will cause a dog to itch so much that they damage their skin and may be open to a secondary infection which will cause more itching. If you suspect that he has fleas, to be on the safe side bathe him and after he is dry apply a topical spot on treatment. Other causes may be infections, parasitic mites, allergies, hormonal conditions among others; ideally you should have your Veterinarian take a look. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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