Pet Health Library

Fleas on Dogs

Background

Fleas can be annoying issue for your dog. They can jump from other dogs or from the environment. Fleas are more common in areas that are hot and humid. This means that, depending where you live, fleas can be a summer problem or a year round problem. All it takes is for one flea to make your dog itchy and uncomfortable. In some cases, your dog can be allergic to flea saliva making the itching and irritation worse. In older dogs, fleas are just an uncomfortable problem, but because fleas consume your dog’s blood, they can be dangerous to puppies. Regardless of your dog’s age, it’s important to know the signs of fleas

Signs

  • Fleas can be visible on your dog’s skin (primarily on their stomachs and legs)
  • Scratching
  • Licking
  • Hair loss
  • Scabs or hot spots
  • Pale gums (in puppies) is a sign of major blood loss
  • Flea’s will leave feces (also known as flea dirt) that will be visible. The feces is made up mainly of blood. You can test if it is flea feces by wiping off the dirt with a wet napkin and see if it stains red.

Diagnosis

While you may be able to diagnose and treat fleas yourself, you should still see a vet who will be able to prescribe more effective treatment than over the counter remedies. Your vet may also test to see if your dog is allergic to fleas. Once your vet has confirmed that fleas are the issue, they will discuss treatment options with you.

Treatment

Your vet may prescribe a shampoo or topical serum that prevents the flea eggs from hatching. The adult fleas will eventually die, and no new eggs will hatch, ending your dog’s flea problem. A proper cleaning of your dog’s bed and living area, as well as carpets and furniture that your dog comes in contact with is highly recommended.

Prevention

There are effective preventative medications that your vet can prescribe. There are monthly, topical treatments or oral medications that are absorbed into your dog’s bloodstream. When a flea bites your dog, the medication in your dog’s blood will be consumed by the flea. These medications often target the flea’s nervous system, paralyzing it and killing it within 24 hours.

Flea collars are also a preventative option. These collars can last up to 8 months and emit a gas that repels fleas and, in most cases, ticks as well. Flea collars are not the most effective, as the range of the repellent may not reach the tail-end of your dog. Speak with your vet about the best form of prevention for your dog.

Beyond medications and collars, avoiding other dogs with fleas is very important. Fleas are more common in areas that are humid or ones that have seasons of high humidity, so if you live in an area like that, performing regular flea checks can be beneficial.

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