Knowing about fleas and the most popular types of flea treatment for dogs is important for any canine owner to stop the scratching and possible transmittal of diseases carried by the fleas. Different flea treatments can also be viewed as a preventive measure as these parasite are a menace and a threat to the well-being, not only of the dog, but also of the people who live with the dog.
Fleas don’t just simply suck blood and go their own merry way. Rather, they are known to be carriers of a number of dangerous diseases. Therefore at the first sign of infestation, you must take immediate action.
Background Information on Fleas
Let me tell you a little more about fleas so that you know what you’re dealing with. There are about 2,000 different species of fleas and all of them are hemophagic, or rely of blood as the primary source of sustenance. Most of these parasites have tough, dark colored bodies with six legs and tube-shaped mouth organ which is used to suck the blood of the host.
Their sizes range from one-sixteenth of an inch to one-eighth of an inch and undergo 3 stages of development after coming out of the egg: larva, pupa, and adult. During the larva and pupa stages, they are not yet fully equipped to consume blood so they consume other organic matter such as dead cells or even the excrement of adult fleas. Yes, they eat excrement before sucking blood.
The lifespan of a flea can range from a few weeks to up to eight months depending on a number of factors. It should also be noted that while in the larvae and pupae stages, fleas can only last 2 days at most without sustenance while adult fleas are able to survive for months without feeding.
Fleas like to inhabit areas which are humid and not directly exposed to sunlight, these can be outdoors in the woods or even indoors in carpets, rugs, under sofas and beds etc., just as long as they fit the abovementioned habitation categories. They can’t swim very well so they also avoid watery areas where drowning is a real possibility.
In terms of hunting for a host, fleas usually just wait for hosts to pass by and use vibration, carbon dioxide traces, and heat to determine the presence of a host. Once a host is found, the adult flea can use its uncanny jumping ability to climb up the host, find the right spot and start feeding. After feeding, fleas can now reproduce with the female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day or about 600 for its entire lifetime; this is usually on the body of the host or in a preferred nesting area. These eggs hatch into larvae after two days and begin the cycle of sucking and egg-laying once again and if left unchecked, they can form a colony on its host.
Fleas Carry Diseases
Remember the bubonic plague, the one that killed a quarter of the population of the entire European continent? That plague was brought over by the rats from the ships and transmitted to humans by fleas, demonstrating just how serious fleas are as a threat. Apart from the plague, they also carry a myriad of other diseases and bacteria such as Parasitic Dermatitis, Erlichiosis, pestis, bartonella henselae, Lyme disease, myxomatosis virus and tapeworms.
Checking Your Dog for Fleas
How do you know if your dog has the Ctenocephalides cani or dog fleas? Well let me give you a rundown of a few basic warning signs. The first and most common would be incessant scratching. If your dogs keeps scratching his ear or biting any part of his body this may mean that it is itching, if this keeps on, the skin my become inflamed and bleed. The loss of fur and severe reddening of the skin may also be another indication of flea infestation resulting in flea allergy dermatitis or FAD. Lastly, if there is a large number of fleas already feeding on the dog then anemia may occur which can be seem through weight loss and lethargy.
It should be noted though that not all dogs react that way to fleas, some may not even scratch or bite the site, totally ignoring the flea and giving no outward sign of infestation therefore regular checks should be done to be sure.
If you suspect that your dog may have fleas then carefully comb your gloved fingers through the coat and check for flat insects with six legs stuck to or crawling around the skin. You can also choose to use a fine comb and gently brush the coat to check for what falls out. If you see any black dots falling off, you should collect these and place these on wet paper to see if they stain the paper red, an indication that it is blood.
The treatment of fleas isn’t as simple as just removing the ones on your dog; rather it requires a holistic approach to ensure that fleas do not come back.
The first step is to get rid of the fleas already on your pet; there are a number of ways to do this, either through regular baths, special topical drops and regular combing and grooming. Once you’ve gotten rid of the ones infesting your dog, the next step is to clear your home of any eggs, larva or pupa which came from the adults infesting your dog.
To do this, you may have to use insecticides or specialized pest sprays, while regularly cleaning and vacuuming your home, especially rugs, carpets, mattress, where your dog sleeps and the places not often cleaned or touched by direct sunlight. You may also opt to place light traps to attract stray fleas and zap them. The next step is to clear your yard by trimming your lawn of weeds and having the area fumigated to make sure that all traces of fleas and other pests are gone for good.
Additionally, if you take your dog out on regular walks, you can provide a flea collar or apply special anti flea repellants just to make sure that you don’t bring home any hangers on which could restart the infestation once again. Also, try to keep your pets away from other animals which could become carriers of fleas so the little blood suckers can’t jump from their current host to your dog.