Fleas are a problem for dogs and their owners alike. These tiny insects will live on the body of your dog, sucking the animal’s blood and laying eggs. The bites and presence of fleas will cause the dog to itch and if the dog happens to be allergic to fleas (the allergy is technically to the insects’ saliva) it can experience extreme itching, loss of fur in some places, inflammation, and infections. Regardless of whether the dog has an allergy to flea saliva, infestations must be dealt with or they will go on and on and the fleas will also infest your home, other pets, and can even live on humans. In short; you can be directly and adversely affected by an uncontrolled flea infestation.
If you suspect that your dog has fleas because it’s been scratching more than usual, there are ways to check for their presence. Fleas are very small (about an eighth of an inch long), but visible to the naked eye, and brownish in color. Because they prefer dark places they will try to hide beneath the dog’s fur, under the collar, or on the underbelly. Their fecal material can also be seen on the dog’s coat and looks like multiple black flecks or specks – almost like pepper. If fleas or their droppings are found it is time to treat your dog to get rid of them.
Treating Your Dog for Fleas
While flea collars, powders, and sprays may help to prevent infestations to some extent, they will not help if the dog is already infested. When fleas are infesting a dog the female lays eggs at a rate of about thirty per day. These eggs fall off the dog and into the carpet, soil, or wherever the dog may be. In these areas they hatch and pupate, eventually growing into adult fleas which can then re-infest the dog. In order to halt the cycle all the fleas on the dog and in the environment must be killed or the life cycle must be interrupted.
There are several flea treatments available for dogs, but one of the best is an oral medication that will not kill adult fleas, but does kill the eggs and larva. This interrupts the flea life cycle and prevents them from coming back, as long as the dog is not continually exposed to new fleas. If that is happening, the source must be cleaned of fleas whether it is the carpet, the environment, or other dogs with which your pet associates.
Fleas can be a real nuisance for dogs and their owners, but catching them and treating the dog quickly is the key to eliminating the infestation and preventing the insects’ return.