All fleas want is a warm and moist home, access to a ready supply of blood, and to breed a very large family! Ideally, she would like to lay 50 eggs a day. And, there’s no place like home when it comes to fleas burying themselves into the fur of your pet. Unfortunately, you and your dog probably don’t feel the same way.
There are 2,200 types of fleas, some for cats, some for dogs, some for humans, some for all animals. In Australia, you need to be vigilant of flea infestations in your pet’s environment all year round, as well as have your dog on preventive medication.
How can you tell your dog has fleas?
Sometimes you can see fleas on your pet, and dogs who are being bitten by fleas may show signs of repeated scratching and chewing of themselves. Constant scratching can cause visible fur loss and red, irritated skin, but sometimes your dog may not show any signs at all.
The bloodsucking life of a flea
A flea’s lifecycle can take from 12 - 14 days or as long as 180 days, depending on the temperature and humidity. They love moist and warm environments. In a typical home however, an adult flea’s life cycle lasts about a month.
Adult flea lays its eggs, which then fall off your pet onto the rug, bedding, floor, or garden. Once hatched, larvae feed off the droppings of adult fleas or organic matter around them. They emerge as adults when the weather is moist and warm.
Adult fleas have strong back legs and can jump up to 2 metres from host to host or from the grass onto your dog. Dogs tend to get fleas from their environment because adults lay eggs on other animals, which then drop off and find their way onto your pet. They don’t even have to leave the backyard to get them!
A well-fed adult female (they feed on blood…of people or animals) can lay a minimum of 20 eggs per day, which translates into 20,000 adult fleas in three months. Fleas are tiny parasites, but they have survival instinct. They know they’ll get kicked off their host (your dog) if they are reachable. So, they tend to migrate onto their backs or other unscratchable parts of your dog’s body, such as on their belly, backs, and rear.
Health risks of having untreated fleas
Apart from being quite uncomfortable for your pet, there are health risks associated with flea bites and infestations.
- Your dog may develop flea allergy dermatitis, which can be caused by a single flea, and last long after the flea has jumped off your dog’s body
- Fleas can also transmit tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) and are carriers of viruses and bacteria that causes various diseases dogs, cats, and humans
- Flea bites can cause severe anaemia
- Repeated scratching can lead to infected wounds
How to get rid of these jumpy pests?
Your dog should be on a regular monthly flea prevention, however it can take up to three months to get the flea infestation in your dog’s environment under control. Rugs, cracks between floorboards, or mounds of leaves in the backyard are the sorts of typical places where fleas will set up home.
It’s very important that you regularly maintain your animal’s flea-control program even after you’ve gotten rid of the infestation, as other flea-carrying animals such as cats and wildlife can bring in fleas into your yard. All the animals in the house need to be treated.
How to eliminate fleas from your dog’s environment
- Clean all affected indoor areas. Vacuum carpets, furniture and throw away the vacuum bag in a sealed bag. Wash bedding once a week with hot water and hang in the sun to dry.
- Clean outdoor areas – young fleas love warm and moist environments. They don’t like being dry and can live up to 140 days in moist environments. Rake up leaves and clean up your yard.
- Continue to use the monthly preventative flea treatment – talk to your vet about the best medication for your dog.
There’s no evidence that home remedies such as garlic (which is toxic to dogs) are effective in preventing or treating dogs from such parasites. Other purported remedies such as silica are toxic to humans.
Ask your vet and read the instructions of the treatment carefully. Some are topical insecticides; others are ingestible pills, which then circulate in the blood.
Importantly DO NOT give your cat your dog’s flea prevention drug, or vice versa, your dog’s treatment could kill your cat! Do not let your cat go near your dog for a while after administering the topical treatment.
Ask us about suitable flea treatments for your pets. We also carry a large range in our online store.