Adult fleas are small, flat, wingless parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts. Fleas can bite humans, although they prefer dogs, cats, and other mammals. Because fleas prosper in warm, humid environments, temperature and humidity changes can affect the length and success of their life cycles. The adult flea spends all of its time on a pet; this is the life cycle stage that you are most likely to encounter. Prevention is the best way to keep fleas away from you and your pets.
SIGNS OF FLEA INFESTATION
Scratching may be the first sign that your dog has a problem with fleas. Other signs include:
- Hair loss
- An unusual amount of chewing and licking
- Black specks found on the skin and coat or on your dog’s bedding (flea dirt).
Flea bites can trigger secondary bacterial infections and more serious allergic reactions, including flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) – an uncomfortable inflammatory skin disease. Because fleas feed on blood, blood loss can result in anemia and even death with severe infestations, with puppies at particular risk. In addition, fleas can transmit tapeworms when your dog accidentally eats a flea when biting at his skin to itch, or when your cat grooms themselves. There are occasional reports of children being infected following ingestion of an infected flea as well.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT FLEAS
It’s important to realize that the fleas you see on your pets are only the tip of the iceberg. Fleas lay eggs that fall off your pet into your home, particularly where your dog spends most of its time (such as their bed, or favourite spot on the couch). These eggs hatch into larvae, which spin cocoons and become pupae. Once a flea pupa has completed its development inside the cocoon, it will pop out in response to movement or heat from an external source. Since new adults need to feed quickly after weeks of inactivity, this mechanism encourages them to become active when a potential host is nearby. Flea pupa can remain dormant in this stage for up to SIX MONTHS! This temporary hibernation allows these heat-loving parasites to survive through the chilly winter outside. It also makes it very difficult treat an infestation in a single round of treatment. The fleas remaining in the environment will need to be ‘starved out” and will require all pets in the household to be treated for a prolonged period of time. This will take away the fleas’ food source!
HOW TO CHECK FOR FLEAS ON YOUR DOG
Look for irritated areas on your pet’s back, abdomen, neck and rump and on the inside of the thighs. You can also check for flea “dirt” (which is actually flea feces) by running a fine-toothed metal flea comb through your dog’s hair and wiping off the comb with a wet white paper towel. If any black flecks turn reddish (because of your dog’s blood in the flea’s feces) when wet, you’ve found flea dirt!
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
If you think your pet has fleas, call your veterinarian. It’s important to remove fleas not only from your pets but also eliminate them from your pets’ environment. Your veterinarian can prescribe one of our many flea treatments that work best for you and your pet’s lifestyle. Preventing future infestations is far easier than treating (and having to deal with) a flea problem once the parasites are established on your pet and in your home. Protect your pet and your family by keeping your dog on prevention all year round!
Some of the products we have to offer at the clinic to prevent fleas include Revolution, Bravecto, Simperica, and Advantage. Please call or stop by the clinic to pick up your flea prevention and get some advice on which of our preventatives are best suited for you and your pet. We will instruct you on how to properly administer the medications, and for how long. Please note that we can only dispense your pet flea preventative medications if we have seen them for their Annual Wellness Visit with one of our veterinarians.