At some point or another every dog owner will unfortunately experience an invasion of fleas, burrowing down into their pet’s coat and possibly taking up residence in this new host. It can be a very difficult task to rid your home of these very unwelcome jumping, biting insects which can pose some serious health risks for your dog.
Fleas are tiny reddish-brown, wingless insects or parasites that feed on blood and thrive in a moist, warm environment. They gravitate toward animals (called hosts) where a flea can receive continuous sustenance from their blood. Fleas maintain a lively existence through their incredible ability to jump distances of up to 200 times their own size or roughly 13 inches.
The life span of an adult flea can actually be several months, up to a year, depending upon the environment and availability of a host to feed off of. Adult fleas can even go for months without feeding which is how they can easily survive in your home living in carpeting and furniture.
Preventative Flea Treatment for Dogs
What makes fleas so difficult to get rid of is their perpetual life cycle. Within as little as 24 hours after a female flea feeds on her host she can lay as many as 20 eggs, usually on the host. The eggs are tiny, translucent and smooth and can easily slide off of the dog falling onto carpeting, furniture or into floor cracks.
As long as warm temperatures exist (70% humidity and approximately 80 degrees) an egg can hatch in just 2 to 12 days and will become a fully grown flea in no time. In less than 3 weeks just one flea can go through it’s entire life cycle laying hundreds and even thousands of eggs which is why a flea infestation can so easily happen.
Why Dogs Get Fleas
Dogs are primary targets for blood-thirsty fleas. Their coat and body heat provides a warm, dark hiding place for fleas where they can feed and lay their eggs. Dogs will typically get fleas from being outdoors or from other animals. Fleas, being the great jumpers they are, can easily jump from animal to animal. If a dog is without any type of flea protection to repel these nasty, hearty parasites, the animal will be virtually defenseless against a flea.
Health Problems Caused by Fleas
Fleas can make a pet feel downright miserable. The most common problems for a dog with fleas is constant itching, scratching, biting or chewing at the area where they are being bitten. Many dogs suffer from an allergic reaction to flea bites known as flea allergy dermatitis. Extreme sensitivity to flea saliva can cause dog hot spots where the dog will continuously gnaw at the area causing redness and sores.
Tape worms are another health problem caused by fleas. When a dog swallows a flea, a tape worm can develop in the dog’s stomach. The tape worm’s life cycle produces microscopic tape worm eggs which are passed in a dog’s feces and a flea will then eat that egg. The flea finds a dog to feed off of, the dog bites at and swallows the flea, and the cycle continues. A flea infestation can also result in anemia, particularly in younger animals like puppies. When a young animal is infested with blood-sucking fleas that multiply like crazy, parasitic anemia can occur which could even result in death if not treated immediately.
Common Types of Flea Control and Treatment
Once you’ve begun to experience a problem with fleas it is very important to act immediately and get the situation under control. It is very difficult to get rid of fleas so persistence and patience is needed. You must treat your pet for fleas and also your home for fleas. Doing one without the other is useless. To rid your home of fleas you must kill the live fleas, eggs and larvae.
Disclaimer: Always check with your Vet when trying new treatments.
For a difficult flea problem you will most likely need to use a commercial product like a flea bomb with an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) which will have longer lasting effects (typically up to 200 days). You will need to ensure that a flea is killed in every stage of its life cycle. Killing only live fleas will have little impact on the problem because when the eggs hatch the fleas are back.
You will need to vacuum carpets and clean furniture frequently, mop floors and give your house a thorough cleaning to help rid your home of flea dirt, eggs, and larvae.
Bathing your pet is also necessary to rid your dog of fleas. Flea control for dogs can consist of using a good flea shampoo, sprays, powders and flea collars that contain the right protective ingredients.
Natural Flea Control
You may also choose to use a natural flea treatment without the use of chemically treated products.
There are many different types of natural flea remedies that you can try if you prefer a more natural way to eliminate fleas and keep fleas at bay:
- Bath your pet with a herbal shampoo or for organic flea control try an organic pet shampoo. This article can help you decide which is an appropriate shampoo for your dog.
- Use a flea comb on your dog’s coat to find fleas and eggs.
- Try adding garlic or brewers yeast in small amounts to your dog diet since fleas apparently hate the taste.
- Apply oil of lavender to the base of your pet’s tail and around their neck to help with itching.
- Combine equal amounts of apple cider vinegar with water to spray on your pet and rub into their skin to make it acidic to help repel fleas.
- Frequently wash all dog bedding in extremely hot water.
- Herbal flea collars and pet beds with cedar wood shavings may also be helpful.
Flea control for puppies must be handled much more carefully. Commercial flea products are too harsh for pups and should never be used if they are under 8 weeks of age. Natural flea treatment is the way to go with a puppy or a chemical-free flea control product. Checking with your veterinarian is the best advice in order to determine the right course of action for a puppy flea treatment and flea control for puppies in general.
Flea Prevention for Dogs
Fleas are a fact of life, particularly in the summer months and in areas with warmer climates. Dog flea prevention is a proactive way to keep fleas away. Keeping your pet indoors as much as possible during flea season will help. Treating your yard, if you have one, for fleas is also very helpful to prevent a flea problem.
Many have found that an effective flea treatment for dogs consists of a topical application designed to eliminate the pests and subsequently keep your pet free from fleas for some time. In this case, products such as Frontline Plus Flea and Tick Control or Advantix could be considered.
Flea prevention is the ultimate goal so that you can avoid having to get rid of fleas, that have taken a hold on your pet and/or your home, further down the track.
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