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Dogs and Fleas: Everything You Didn’t Want to Know

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Learn how fleas can affect your dog.
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Flea free dog lying in bed

Fleas love dogs, but the feeling definitely isn’t mutual. These parasites can jump on your dog while your dog is playing in the yard or travel into your home on the fur or clothing of a visiting pet or human, eventually finding their way to your pet. Fleas then stay alive by biting your dog’s skin and sucking blood, leading to skin irritation and potentially even transferring diseases and parasites in the process. If your dog is scratching more than usual, it could indicate a flea infestation.

In short: You don’t want fleas, and neither does your dog. Find out everything you didn’t want to know about fleas and dogs.

What Do Dog Fleas Look Like?

Dog fleas are only a few millimeters long. They appear brown or black but are difficult to spot because they burrow deep into the fur.

A good way to detect fleas is by checking for flea droppings, which you might see in your pet’s coat or on their bedding as tiny black specks. Brush them with a damp white paper towel and you will see reddish-brown spots appear on the towel, indicating you have a flea infestation on your hands.

What is a Flea’s Life Cycle?

  1. The cycle begins when a female flea lays tiny white eggs in your dog’s coat.
  2. These eggs fall off your pet as they move around and hatch into flea larvae within a few days.
  3. The larvae survive in dark areas, such as deep in carpets, feeding on organic debris and flea droppings.
  4. Larvae then enter a pupal state, spinning a cocoon around themselves to develop into adult fleas.
  5. Inside the cocoon, the fleas are protected until the conditions are right for them to hatch; they can lie dormant for up to six months.

The whole cycle can be complete within a few weeks if conditions are right, and in homes kept at room temperature, fleas can be a problem year-round.

What Problems Can Dog Fleas Cause?

In addition to irritating your dog with bites, fleas can cause a number of health problems for your dog — as well as for you and your family.

  • Skin issues: Flea bites can trigger flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), an allergic reaction to flea saliva that irritates the skin and can cause intense itching for your dog. Oftentimes, dogs will lose hair and develop skin infections that may require antibiotics.
  • Tapeworm: Dogs can get a tapeworm by accidentally ingesting infected fleas while biting and chewing at their irritated skin.
  • Trouble for owners: Fleas also bite humans, leaving very itchy red spots. Additionally, treating an infestation in the home takes a lot of time and can be quite costly.

What Can You Do about Fleas?

Fortunately, owners can choose from a wide variety of effective flea treatments to protect their dog from these persistent pests. Consider choosing a product that kills fleas through contact, so they don’t have to bite your dog to die.

Talk to your vet to learn more about flea treatment and prevention. Keeping your dog and other pets on a monthly flea prevention program can help stop infestations before they start.

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