Dog and Puppy Health

dog health care

Dealing With Those Pesky Dog Fleas

Flea is the common name for any of the small wingless insects of the order Siphonaptera. Fleas are external parasites, living by hematophagy off the blood of dogs, cats, birds and other mammals. Genetic and morphological evidence indicates that they are descendants of the Scorpionfly family Boreidae, which are also flightless; accordingly it is possible that they will eventually be reclassified as a suborder within the Mecoptera. In the past, however, it was most commonly supposed that fleas had evolved from the flies (Diptera), based on similarities of the larvae

The bites and presence of dog fleas will cause him 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. 

Besides being such an itchy nuisance, dog fleas can also act as a vector for disease. One possible example of this was the bubonic plague, which may have been transmitted between rodents and humans. Murine typhus fever, and in some cases tapeworms, Hymenolepis, can also be transmitted by fleas.

How do you know if your Dog has fleas?

You may suspect dog fleas if your dog seems to always be scratching or biting at something on thier fur.  Fleas are very small and only about 1/8 of inch long, but are visible to the naked eye, and brownish or black in color.  Fleas like dark places so they will try to hide deep in 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.  If fleas or their droppings are found on your dog you will need to treat your dog to get rid of them.

Popular flea control methods: Most people rely on flea collars, powders, and sprays which may help to prevent infestations to some extent, but they will not help if the dog is already infested. 

Flea infestation can spread rapidly as the female flea lays eggs at a rate of about 15-20 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 dog's fleas on the dog and in the environment must be killed or the life cycle must be interrupted.

These days there are a variety ofl 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.

Some other Natural Flea Treatments are:

Consumption of aged garlic is purported to be a natural flea repellant, as the fleas do not like the different taste of blood it creates. This consumption based prophylatic treatment may take far longer than conventional methods. Un-aged garlic can cause a toxic fatal reaction in some household pets, so caution should be used in choosing the correct product.

"A reasonable amount of fleas is good for a dog;
it keeps him from brooding over being a dog."
~- E N Westcott

Baking soda mixed with equal amounts of salt kills dog fleas. It is rubbed into a pet's fur, pet's bedding, and the carpet. It can kill adult fleas by irritating their chitinous exoskeletons and causing desiccation. Wash/rinse pet after treatment to avoid a skin problem. Do not dust the carpet on a rainy day, as the salt will absorb moisture from the air, causing the carpet to become wet.

Individual fleas will drown immediately when dropped in water with a bit of dish soap added to break the surface tension. It is easy to get rid of fleas by putting the dog in a bath, and using animal shampoo on it. While scrubbing, take a washcloth and scrub with fingernails. You will see fleas all over the cloth. Then soak it in the water to drown the fleas. Then wash all the blankets and couches that the dogs lay on.

While killing live fleas is a noble proposition, the true threat comes from their scattered eggs that resist even machine washing, Those with an energy intensive kitchen can freeze their sheets and clothing to guarantee that the adults and the eggs perish.

Revolution is another flea treatment product. It is a topical once-monthly pet medicine that prevents heartworms, fleas, ear mites, sarcoptic mange (scabies), and certain types of ticks in dogs, and prevents heartworms, fleas, ear mites, hookworms, and roundworms in cats. Selamectin is the main ingredient, and side effects, while rare, may include digestive upset and hair loss.

As any pet lover can tell you dog fleas are a royal pain to deal with, but finding them and treating the dog quickly is the key to eliminating the infestation and preventing these pesky fleas from coming back. 



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