What are Fleas?
A flea is a nasty little external parasite that feeds off the blood of your pet dog to survive and breed. There are various types of flea although the most common to the canine is known as Ctenocephalides canis.
These small bugs (they are quite visible to the naked eye), which are coppery brown in color jump from host to host and through the environment with their strong black legs looking for animals to live on and reproduce. They tend to leave several visible objects on their hosts including feces (flee dirt), visible as black specks and small white oval eggs, which will later hatch and become more flees.
Optimum temperatures for fleas are 65 to 80 degrees so the warm body of the dog makes the perfect home for a flea, particularly in hotter areas of the world or during typical summer months. Humidity is also important as fleas need at least 50 percent to survive.
After becoming an adult a flea can begin laying eggs within only 36 hours and over a 50 day period can lay a whopping 2000 eggs, meaning no treatment equals a massive infestation.
Why are Fleas a Problem?
Although through history the pairings of certain animals go hand in hand, dogs and fleas certainly do not. The flea may need the dog to survive but the dog can be seriously harmed by fleas if they become infested by them.
The main problem with fleas is that they bite and draw blood causing pain, itching and discomfort for your dog and if left untreated the wounds and skin may become infected and cause more serious problems down the line. It is not uncommon for stray dogs to be killed by fleas through blood loss and the inability to fight off infection through medication.
Another major problem with fleas is that the combination of biting from the fleas and scratching from the dog can cause hair loss, which not only makes your dog look under the weather, but can also cause skin damage and more discomfort.
Fleas are also known to carry other diseases that transfer to the dog when they are bitten. These include things like tapeworms which will then grow inside the dog’s digestive track causing more problems.
As you can see fleas are not pleasant for a dog in any way and should be treated at first detection. Even if you only find flea dirt there is probably a flea lurking somewhere so the dog should be completely shampooed to make sure you get rid of any potential pests.
Flea Bite Dermatitis
Dermatitis is a skin allergy, which is the most common allergy among dogs. It happens specifically to dogs that are allergic to flea bites and their saliva. A normal dog may become irritated by a flea bite, but those allergic to it only need one or two bites a week to become itchy all over and are much more susceptible to severe hair loss around the back and tail.
Dogs with this condition need extra care and prevention where fleas are concerned and washing your dog in flea lotion once a month, as well as having impeccable house cleanliness where vacuuming is concerned should prevent them from catching any fleas or at least help get rid of one or two before any damage or breeding can occur.
In serious cases the dog may develop acute skin lesions or moist spots where the skin can’t heal due to gnawing and scratching at the itchy and damaged areas. If you haven’t already, you should visit the vet for expert treatment.
Detecting fleas can actually be a harder process than you first imagined, especially if you have a long haired or double coated pooch. Fleas rarely stay on top of the hair on the back of the dog where they’d be most visible, preferring to nestle down at the roots near the blood of which they feed. It is more common to find fleas on the dog’s underbelly, rump and hind legs.
The obvious things to look out for when wondering if your pet has fleas are gnawing and biting, rolling on the ground, scratching and general irritation. They may also go off their food and seem depressed, although you’d probably notice by this point.
When examining the coat you need to look out for dry skin, scabs or blood and what is known as “flea dirt,” which is like black dust and specs, but is actually the flea’s excrement. A test that can discover if it is just mud or flea dirt is to put it on a wet tissue. If it dissolves in to a blood like spot then your dog has a flea problem. You may never actually see a flea because they are fast, good at hiding and can jump if needs be. But if you find eggs or flea dirt then do not hesitate to get the problem sorted.
Preventing and Treatment
Preventing and treating fleas couldn’t be easier, with a plethora of pills, lotions, shampoos, chemicals, collars and gadgets that have been tested and put on the market, all of which can be purchased from the local pet store. Just be careful that you follow the instructions to a tee, because over using certain chemicals can cause burns and skin damage just like the fleas themselves.
The best way to take the fight towards fleas is to use a combination of the shampoos, utilize a flea collar which discourages them from landing on the dog and electronic flea traps to catch fleas in the home. The pill form may also be successful although they require the fleas to bite the dog and then take in the poison, so allergic dogs will still be affected by the initial bite.
It is a good idea to use a flea comb to meticulously groom through the dog’s hair in case anything like eggs or the odd flea was somehow left behind after treatment.
If the worse comes to the worse, a trip to the vet might be in order.