Perhaps the ultimate bane to a dog owner’s existence is fleas. These tiny insects not only provide pain and discomfort to dogs, but can easily infest an entire house (and human inhabitants) in little time. Read below to learn everything you need to know about these blood sucking parasites.
What are fleas?
Fleas are external parasites which thrive on the blood of birds and mammals. Their lifecycle is short, which means infestations can quickly multiply. After an adult flea feeds off the blood of a human or animal, she lays eggs on the host (up to 40 per day). The eggs will fall off the host and distribute themselves among the environment. Once the fleas hatch, they can begin sucking blood and laying eggs in as little as one week.
Where do fleas live?
Fleas can be found in a number of environments, especially damp, dark, and moist areas, such as in wood piles or under rocks and debris. They are hardy to numerous climates and live in most regions when not hitching a ride on an animal.
What are the signs and symptoms of fleas?
A dog that is infested with fleas will show discomfort, such as excessive scratching, head shaking, and even open sores. Flea saliva can induce an allergic reaction in some dogs, so skin may appear red and irritated. If a dog ingests fleas, he or she is at risk of developing a tapeworm infection, which can result in anemia, weight loss, and fatigue.
How do I check my dog for fleas?
To check for fleas, pull back your dog’s fur and inspect his or her skin. Fleas will appear as small, moving black dots, similar to a grain of wild rice. If the flea infestation is particularly bad you may observe flea dirt, which is the flea’s waste product, which will appear to be specks of dried blood. Fleas typically congregate in areas with most blood flow, such as the head and base of the tail.
How do I remove fleas from my dog?
To remove a flea infestation, both dog and house must be treated. The dog should be bathed in a specially formulated flea shampoo that contains insecticide. The house, especially carpet and upholstery, should be cleaned with a flea bomb or other flea removal product that can be found at any pet store. For particularly bad infestations, it is recommended to continue regular treatment of the dog and house up to six months after the initial fleas have been found.
How can I prevent fleas?
Fleas are one of the most easily preventable insects. Monthly oral tablets, topical applications, and flea collars are available. Oral tablets, such as NexGard or Trifexis, provide your dog with a continual defense that is not at risk of rinsing off in the rain or bathtub. An insecticide circulates in the dog’s blood stream and poisons any flea that bites the dog. Topical applications, such as Frontline, distribute insecticide throughout the dog’s body and kills fleas on contact. Flea collars work in a similar manner, and advanced options can provide up to 8 months of protection.