For owners whose dogs have suffered from fleas, it’s an unforgettable experience. But with a large number of available treatments, it can often be hard to determine which is best for your furry pal.
In this blog, we’ll be looking at the most successful ways to rid your dog of fleas, and the extra steps you can take to ensure they stay away.
What are dog fleas?
Fleas are an external parasite that have a large presence in every region of the world with over 2,500 species. They measure approximately 3mm in length, and survive by ingesting the blood of their host, leaving small but irritable bite marks wherever they decide to feed. While unable to fly, they do have the ability to jump up to 100 times their own body length.
How to know if your dog has fleas
Fleas are not fussy. They will feed on any living organism, including humans, and as a result your first inkling as to the presence of fleas may come from yourself. If you find yourself repeatedly itching over the course of a week or two, and you find tiny bite marks upon your skin, there’s a strong chance that your pup is suffering from them as well.
A dog’s coat is the perfect place for a flea to live thanks to the amount of fur, warmth and resources necessary to reproduce.
If you see your dog constantly itching and biting themselves, try having a look using a flea comb. If you look long enough you should end up seeing little black dots that upon closer inspection will be moving around.
Why do fleas need treating?
For most dogs, the presence of fleas will manifest itself in excessive levels of scratching, with no further physical issues. However, they can cause a number of problems:
- Certain dogs are actually allergic to flea saliva, and the repeated bites can occasionally cause a particularly susceptible dog to go into anaphylactic shock.
- The larvae from fleas can often become infected with tapeworm. If ingested by your fluffy companion, tapeworms can find their way into the gut causing pain and discomfort, ultimately requiring worming medication.
- Due to their diet, fleas can transport disease from animal to animal. For example, the spread of the plague throughout Europe in the 14th century has been widely attributed not to rats, but to the fleas that carried the infection from rats to humans.
How easy is it to get rid of dog fleas?
Luckily, there are a number of ways to help your dog rid themselves of the parasite using products from either your vet or local pet supply store.
As odd as it sounds, the first step to helping your dog is not to treat your dog, but to treat the environment around them. Fleas can be found everywhere in the average household – from bedding to carpets, and clothing to sofas, they are a nightmare to get rid of.
Start by vacuuming the entire house, incorporating the use of upholstery treatments designed to limit parasite growth referred to as Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs). And when we say clean everything, we mean everything – including curtains.
Also bear in mind that fleas can survive outside for prolonged periods, so if your pooch likes to go adventuring through the plants in your garden or yard, ensure that that you use flea spray in all of the areas they like to visit.
- Washing treatments
While flea-killing shampoos are extremely effective at killing fleas (as the name suggests), in the real world they are not always the best choice. Why? Well the shampoo needs to remain on your dog for at least ten minutes, and any dog owner who’s washed their dog before knows that their pooch will do almost anything to get the shampoo off as soon as possible, including soaking all furniture throughout the house as they do so. So if you’re wondering how to get rid of dog fleas, this may not be your favourite option.
- Topical treatments
Until recently, topical treatments have been considered the best way to drive fleas away from your dog. They involve either a weekly, or monthly treatment where the medicine is applied between the shoulder blades. From there, it slowly makes its way across the entire body at hair-root level through natural movement of the dog. The advantage of this method is the limited chance of a negative reaction from your pooch as it does not require ingestion of any kind. Topical treatments also have the benefit of killing any fleas that attempt to infest your dog’s coat once the chemical has been applied.
- Prescription treatments
Prescription treatments take the form of tablets that are given to the dog at varying time intervals. These are less advisable for older dogs, as certain ingested medication can cause your furry friend to feel ill and vomit adding further strain, however, your vet will always be the best person to ask for advice regarding dosages and age limits.
Once ingested, the tablets kill all fleas within 4 hours, and prevent any re-infestation for a further a prolonged period of time. More recent prescription treatments also have the benefit that even if there are residual fleas left in the home, the tablets keep them away from the dog permanently.
So why are fleas so hard to get rid of?
To understand this question in relation to how to get rid of dog fleas, you first need to be aware of a flea’s life cycle. When a flea lays its eggs, it can take between two days and two weeks for them to hatch depending on conditions. The resulting larvae do not have the ability to drink blood from a host and so chew their way through organic debris such as skin cells and other dead insects. Once they have consumed enough matter, they enter a pupal stage. And this is where most recurring flea issues occur.
Like many other parasitic lifeforms, the pupal stage can stay in a state of suspended animation for up to eight months. So even if you remove all mature fleas from the home environment and your dog, there may still be flea pupa waiting to hatch and subsequently re-infest your home.
This is why it is important to continue treating your dog for as long as is necessary, as the pupa could hatch at any time, and if the medication with which you treated your dog has worn off, the pupa can emerge from their cocoon and start the whole problem all over again.
Luckily, most fleas complete their entire life cycle in a much shorter period, some as short as 14 days, so for most households one to two months’ treatment is more than ample to eradicate them for good.
We have the right tools to help
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