fleas on dogs

Fleas on Dogs

How Do Dogs Get Fleas?

What are Fleas?

Similar to mites and ticks, fleas on dogs can cause chaos in the lives of not only animals, but unsuspecting humans as well.  These hardy insects can be difficult to detect and even harder to get rid of entirely.

Once fleas have infested an animal, it can be guaranteed that they have also invaded the living space in which the animal lives.

For many dog owners, this can be one of the biggest headaches that the summer months bring.  They are prime time for flea infestations to occur.  High humidity provides an optimal breeding ground.  This means that dogs that enjoy playing outside during these warm months are susceptible to brushing up against flea-infested vegetation or other infested animals.

In knowing the answer to “how do dogs get fleas?” a dog owner can use more preventative measures, especially during the summer.

Fleas are unable to fly, but they can jump up to 7 inches in the air.  So, when a dog comes into contact with a flea, it can easily jump on it and begin to make its home within the fur.

A flea’s only 2 purposes in life are to consume the blood of their host, and to reproduce by laying up to 40 eggs per day.  Although adult fleas usually only live up to 6 weeks at a time, their fast rate of reproduction is enough to cause a full-blown infestation if they are not eradicated quickly.

Flea Life Cycle

There are 4 primary stages of the life of the domestic cat flea, which is the species of flea most common in dogs.

  1. Egg
  2. Larva
  3. Pupa
  4. Adult

what do fleas look likeOnce the female flea has found a host, she will begin laying flea eggs which then fall onto the surrounding environment.  After a matter of days, the hatched eggs become flea larvae.  This stage lasts up to 2 weeks.  As a pupa, the fleas remain tightly in a cocoon to develop into an adult and eventually latch onto an unwary host.

Because of the fact fleas live up to months at a time, this can pose a precarious situation for homeowners with an infested animal.  Therefore, once fleas are detected, it is crucial they are eliminated in the animal and in the living space as fast as possible. Removing fleas on dogs and their larvae is critical to help stop them from growing and getting into your bedding, couch, chairs and carpet.

What Do Flea Eggs Look Like?

Flea eggs are mostly found in bedding, carpeting, or in an animal’s fur.  Though they are not easily seen, these eggs tend to be oval in shape, white in color, and about a quarter of a millimeter in length.

Signs Your Dog May Have Fleas

It is widespread knowledge among dog owners that when a dog is scratching and itching constantly, it most likely means fleas have taken up residence in the dog’s fur.  These unwanted parasites can make their presence known in a variety of ways.

Some symptoms a dog with fleas may show are:

  • Incessant itching
  • Fur loss
  • Gums of the mouth having a pale color
  • Scabbing or bumps in the skin
  • Agitated behavior

If these symptoms are present, a meticulous comb-through of the fur is needed.  Some fleas can be seen as tiny brown dots running around in the fur.

Flea Dirt

signs of fleas on dogsFleas, being about 1 to 2 millimeters in length, can be very tricky to spot while combing through a dog’s fur.  They are dark brown in color and can be easily mistaken for specks of dirt.  Some of these black specks are flea feces, otherwise known as flea dirt.

A quick test to determine if these little specks are flea feces is to put them in a wet tissue and observe if their color changes.  If the color becomes a reddish brown, this indicates that fleas are present due to the consumed blood in their feces.

If these black specks are flea dirt, then this means fleas are either currently present in a dog and they are subject to spread throughout the house.

After this is seen, a visit to the vet, an over-the-counter intervention, or a home remedy concoction is needed immediately to begin ridding the dog and the home of fleas.

Best Flea Medicine for Dogs

It should be first and foremost stated that, if this is the first time a dog is flea-infested, a vet will be able to determine the best treatment and even suggest useful at-home treatments for the future.

Some flea medication is aimed at treating only specific stages of a flea’s development.  For instance, some medication is aimed at adult fleas while others target flea eggs alone.  A vet will be the most knowledgeable in suggesting the best flea treatment for dogs.

Depending upon the medication, some are given orally and others are given topically.  Many of the medications vary in how long they treat the fleas, so it is important to take note of labels and instructions.

Bravecto, Comfortis, and Trifexis are common go-to prescription medications for vets to prescribe for dogs with fleas.

For the tried and true over-the-counter medications, Chewy.com has countless options and reviews that can be consulted to determine what the best medicinal route is.  We recommend Bayer Advantage II, which is a great option for many dogs with fleas.

flea treatment for dogs

While there are many sprays, powders, and collars that can be used to combat flea infestations, a controversial method involves what is known as flea dip, which is a concentrated, powerful solution meant to kill fleas on animals

Flea dip for dogs, although it is widely accepted, often contains potentially harmful pesticides for the dogs and for the humans handling the solution.  For this reason, a vet should be consulted before use and caution should be taken when handling it.

Home Remedies for Fleas on Dogs

The home remedies used to treat fleas are numerous in number and widespread in variety.  The following are some of the most commonly asked questions and answers concerning home treatment of fleas.

  • Does Diatomaceous Earth for Fleas Work?

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a finely milled powder that can be used to rid the home of fleas.  This is for home use only and not to be used directly on any animal.  When purchasing DE, be sure to buy one that is food-grade since it is much safer.  Since some health hazards are associated with DE, further research on the product is recommended before use.

  • Does Apple Cider Vinegar for Fleas Work?

Contrary to popular belief, ACV is completely ineffective in treating fleas.  This is due to its level of acidity being too low to kill a flea.

  • Does Tea Tree Oil for Fleas Work?

While many may advocate for the use of essential oils in dealing with fleas, this is highly discouraged when it comes to tea tree oil.  This oil is easy to use too much of, which can make a dog extremely sick.

  • Does Dawn Kill Fleas?

While a sudsy bath with Dawn soap is known to kill adult fleas by drowning them, it is not in itself a solution.  It does not target the other stages of a flea’s life and it will not prevent them from returning from the surrounding environment.

  • Does Vinegar Kill Fleas?

Vinegar does not kill fleas, but it does repel them and keep them off a dog’s fur.  When dogs are bathed in vinegar, the fleas cannot stand the smell of the vinegar and flee.  If a flea is deprived of the blood of its host for more than a day, it will most likely die.  Note that the living environment still needs to be fully rid of fleas or they will return to the dog in no time. We hope this article about fleas on dogs has helped!

Learn how to keep a dog healthy by reading all of our dog health articles.

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