Fleas are small wingless insects that can cause problems for dogs by biting them. This can cause our pets to be very itchy and in some cases, animals are allergic to the saliva in the flea bite and the reaction is more severe - this is known as Flea Allergic Dermatitis.
A flea can bite up to 400 times a day- which can obviously cause very serious irritation. Fleas can also transmit diseases like tapeworm and Bartonella when they bite, therefore making protecting your pet against them very important.
Fleas on your dog can be challenging to get rid of as it requires treatment of your pet and the environment also. We recommend several products to prevent fleas as well as getting rid of them if your dog has been affected.
How can my dog get fleas?
Dogs can pick up fleas from the environment and from other pets- dogs, cats and rabbits. Fleas spend their adult lives living on our pets, but the full life cycle involves more time off the pet than on them- which is why dogs can easily pick up fleas from the environment when they are out and about.
The adults jump on to our pets, bite and then lay their eggs (40-50 per day). The eggs fall off the fur and onto the surfaces that the animals are in- that means they fall off in the park and also into our houses and into the carpet, bedding and any cracks and crevices on the floor. It is commonly misunderstood that fleas can’t live in houses with wooden floors, but as the eggs are microscopic and sticky, they are designed very cleverly and can still cause infestations even in houses without carpets! The eggs will pupate into larvae which feed on debris and then these in turn into live adult fleas.
These adult fleas then jump onto passing pets in their environment- infecting animals within the home or new animals passing by in the park. Therefore, the cycle continues. A full flea life cycle takes 3 weeks.
How will I know if my dog has fleas?
Sometimes you may see a live flea on your dog- but they are very fast so can be hard to spot. They often prefer to live on the dog's back and near its tail, so these are places to take extra care to check.
Often, we do not see the actual flea itself but see flea dirt which is excreted dog's blood. It looks like black dirt in the fur, but if rubbed with a damp bit of cotton wool you can see the redness of the blood, which helps to determine it from simply dirt from the garden.
Sometimes the first thing that you can notice is the effects of fleas on your dog- they might be rubbing, scratching or chewing their skin. Sometimes the skin looks inflamed (red) and in severe cases the skin can be traumatised and become scabby and even bald.
My dog has fleas; How do I get rid of them?
There are two main points for treating your dog- treating the pet with an effective product and treating the environment to prevent re-infestation.
We recommend using a recommended flea treatment that not only kills fleas on the animal and larvae in the environment, but also that prevents fleas biting- before they can cause skin irritation and pass on disease. Using a licensed product monthly also means that any eggs that have survived and grown into adult fleas in the environment cannot then re-infest your animal. To provide full protection it is important to continue to use the preventative product at the correct intervals. There are lots of options for products you can buy- not all of which are proven to be effective. Please call us to speak to a member of staff for which product would best suit your pet. If one pet in the household has fleas, it is important that all pets (dogs, cats and rabbits) are also treated with a licensed product for their species.
If your pet has been affected by fleas it is also very important to decontaminate the environment and kill any developing larvae. Placing damp towels on your radiators and turning on the heating creates a warm damp environment which encourages larvae to migrate to the surface of your carpets. It is important to then vacuum your house thoroughly. Washing bedding (your pets and your own if animals sleep or climb on your bed), and any other soft furnishings that pets may get on, at a high heat (taking care not to shrink anything) can kill larvae in them. Any extremely contaminated bedding should be disposed of. Using recommended licensed sprays, which we can provide you, to spray on carpets and floors will then kill any larvae or fleas still in the environment. This cycle of hoovering, cleaning and using household sprays may have to be repeated several times, as it is the eggs which are particularly resilient in the environment- so some may survive and new larvae and therefore fleas will appear.
Your vacuum should be emptied after use and, if a bag-less type of vacuum, should also be sprayed with the environment spray to prevent your vacuum becoming a source of infection.
Please do not hesitate to give us a call if you need any more advice on treating and preventing fleas on your pets.
What problems can fleas cause?
Some dogs are only mildly affected by fleas and they can cause irritation and itchiness to the skin. However, if left untreated the infestation of fleas can build up and the effects become more severe as your dog is being bitten by more fleas.
In some cases, dogs are allergic to the flea saliva and can have a severe reaction even if only bitten by one flea. This is known as Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD) and the skin can become very inflamed, scabby and even bald where the dog tries to rub and scratch.
Fleas also transmit some diseases like tapeworm and also Bartonella.
Fleas can also bite human’s ad cause an irritation and itchiness to the skin, however they will not live and stay on humans.
What prevention is available to prevent fleas on my dog?
It is far nicer for our dogs, as well as more cost effective for owners, to prevent flea infestations rather than treat them once they are already established.
There are many licensed products to treat fleas in dogs and it can be hard to know which treatment is best. Most products come as a spot on that is placed on the back of the neck; there are also flea collars and flea tablets that can be used. However, not all treatments that you can buy are effective, which is why we ensure that we only recommend licensed products that have been shown to effectively treat your animal.
We also recommend treatments which prevent fleas from biting, not products just that kill once they have bitten- to prevent signs of FAD, or transmission of any diseases.
For advice on what product may best suit your dog, please call us to speak to one of our Qualified Veterinary Nurses.
Membership of our Healthcare Club also ensures prevention against fleas as part of your dog's preventative healthcare plan.