Dog Fleas: Please No Fleas!
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Dog Fleas: Please No Fleas!

OH MY! Please no Dog Fleas!

The dreaded dog flea problem… I know…it’s terrible. Something so small, can cause so much frustration and so many problems! Dogs or no dogs, fleas can still invade your home. Luckily, there are things you can do to rid your dog and your home of these tiny pests.

Since I figure you are reading this because you want to know how to GET RID OF DOG FLEAS, you can scroll down to treatment options right away, BUT I suggest you read FIRST about their life cycle and how they got there in the first place. This will help you to better understand how to prevent the problem in the future as well as effective treatment plan.

What are dog fleas?

From a zoological point of view, dog fleas are small arthropods. They are about the size of the head of a pin. During the evolution of insects, those that adapted a parasitic lifestyle, lost the ability to fly and instead developed very powerful limbs that allow them to jump enormous distances considering their size. Up to 7 inches straight up and 13 inches to the side! This enables them to jump from one host to another or from the ground onto an unlucky host. Dog and cat fleas almost always belong to the genus Ctenocephalides. Unfortunately for us, they can bite us as well.

Why dog fleas are dangerous?

dog fleasOnce dog fleas have made their home on your dog, they are extremely annoying and can be dangerous.

Ways in which are dog fleas harmful:

- When present in large numbers, they cause INTENSE itching. This can cause loss of hair and skin lesions which may lead to secondary infections. It is important to treat your pet AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to prevent secondary skin infections from occurring.

- Large amounts of dog fleas on very young or malnourished dogs can lead to death. This is due to blood loss. The itching may also prevent him from eating and therefore he can die of starvation.

- Some dogs can have allergic responses to dog fleas saliva. These dogs often lose hair around the hips, the lower back, their butt and around the inner thighs, making the spread of skin infections very likely and serious. Sometimes it only takes one flea to trigger the reaction.

- Transmission of infectious or parasitic diseases can happen because fleas can carry bacteria and parasites dangerous for us and for our dogs.

The most common parasite is the dog tapeworm whose scientific name is Dypilidium caninum. The eggs of the tapeworm are transmitted by dog fleas and infect the dogs (and humans) when the dog fleas are accidentally ingested. (Cats are more prone to this due to their constant grooming behavior). This is why it is extremely important to teach your children that you should ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER PLAYING WITH THEIR PET and NEVER put their hands in their mouth! Otherwise, you might have to deal with dog fleas AND tapeworms.

What is the life cycle of dog fleas?

The life cycle of the dog fleas is divided into a phase of “free-living” and a parasitic stage. Understanding the cycle of fleas is important in learning how to prevent and treat them.

The adult dog fleas that live on a host will mate amongst themselves and in time, the females produce eggs (up to 30 a day!). These eggs are deposited on the dog’s coat and then subsequently fall to the ground. Logically, these eggs accumulate wherever your dog stays for extended periods of time. This includes his bed, YOUR bed, kennel, and even your backyard.

Once on the ground, the eggs hatch and release larvae that make their way into the fibers of carpet, rugs blankets, etc. What do they eat, you might ask? The larvae feed on the adult dog fleas droppings that fell from the host as well as other organic materials. After a while the larvae change into pupae and then into adult form. In adulthood, they can fast for a short period of time before they have to hop on their host (your dog or cat) to feed and reproduce. Then the process starts all over again. From egg to adult takes roughly 14 days.

How do I know if my dog has fleas?

Is he ITCHY and SCRATCHING like CRAZY? Could be fleas! Although there are other organisms that can cause intense itching, they can be difficult to see because they hideout underneath the skin. Dog fleas, however, can be seen on the surface.

Sometimes it is easy to see BLACK/BROWN DOTS deposited on the hair of dogs infested with fleas. However, these may not even be the dog fleas themselves, but their feces. If you want to make sure that they are from fleas and not just dirt, dissolve these dots in water or rub them on a blank sheet of paper. If you see the color red, then you have found dog flea feces! They become red from the blood from which they feed on (yes, I know it is gross). This is helpful if you can’t see the fleas themselves, but want to know if your dog is infested with them. Since fleas prefer the dark, you may be able to see them more on the stomach and inner legs because those areas are not often exposed to light.

How did my dog GET fleas?

Dogs can get fleas from interactions with other infested animals or from fleas present in their environment. However, even if your dog has already been treated for fleas, they can be re-infected. This is because the larvae that were present on the ground from before, have matured and jumped right on to their host. Eggs, larvae and pupae are very difficult to eliminate by washing and using insecticides because of their tendency to hide and cling to fibers in the fabric.

What do I do? Treatment options!

Dog flea treatment should be targeted to the DESTRUCTION of adult fleas, larvae, and eggs and to minimize the chances of acquiring NEW infestations. If you have CHILDREN, NOT ALL treatments may be good for you as your child can easily come in contact with the chemicals. Natural remedies or pills may be best in your case.

Natural Remedies

It is easy to find products that are helpful and completely harmless to your dog. They often contain natural ingredients, and can be in spray, shampoo or dust form. These are good as PREVENTATIVE measures (before you have an infestation) that can be used every few months or so.

- Neem Oil is an excellent pesticide and is natural. It has a very strong smell that wards off fleas. You can buy it in herbal medicine stores as well as online in liquid drop form. I use the neem oil by Now Foods

- White wine vinegar is an excellent antiseptic. Dilute it in water, spray some on a soft cloth, and use it to cleanse the hair of the dog.

- Boil some water with rosemary leaves! Let cool to room temperature and rinse the hair with the water infused with rosemary leaves.

- Citrus repellent! Cut a piece of lemon into quarters and dip them in boiling water. Let the pieces steep in water overnight. Add 2 tablespoons of baking soda and mix thoroughly. Spray your pet with this repellent, especially around the head, behind the ears and under the armpits. Rub and clean with a cloth, repeating the procedure for ten days.

Prescription Medication

I personally think prescription medicines work the fastest and are the most effective, but they need to be used properly. Some of these medicines target the eggs and prevent them from hatching. This prevents further reproduction for there are no eggs to hatch! These products are NOT meant for all dogs and you should always talk to your local vet about which one is right for your dog.

- Dog Fleas pills are great as a preventive measure as well as controlling flea attacks. The administration of pills is particularly suited to those of you with small children. This way, your children will avoid coming into contact with potentially toxic flea chemicals applied on the hair of your dog. PLEASE consult your local vet before giving any medicine to your dog!

Non-prescription Medication

There are MANY products for dog flea treatment and control that do not require a prescription. BUT, I think they tend to be not AS effective. However, if you are really against the dog flea pills, these can be a good alternative. As a reminder, these products are GREAT for controlling your dog’s flea infestation or preventing infection, but they most likely need to be used together with other treatment plans. Always check with your vet first.

• Flea spot-on treatment can be used in combination with certain flea pills. I always use Frontline Plus because it is a newer formula and there is less drug resistance against it. You apply this liquid treatment directly to the skin between your dog’s shoulder blades. It breaks the flea life cycle and therefore in combination with Capstar it is an effective treatment plan against fleas.

Click here for Frontline Plus for puppies and dogs up to 22 lbs

Click here for Frontline Plus for dogs from 23 lbs up to 44 lbs

Click here for Frontline Plus for dogs from 45 lbs up to 88 lbs

• Dog flea shampoos can be very effective in providing a quick relief for itching. There are both natural and prescription shampoos available. These can protect your dog from flea attacks while keeping its hair shiny and hydrated. For natural shampoos, it is usually recommended to apply every two weeks. For prescription shampoo, please follow the directions!

• Dog flea collars are often easy solutions but their effectiveness tends to decrease with time. If your dog has a habit of taking off his collar and chewing on it, DO NOT USE the flea collar because ingesting the chemicals on a flea collar is VERY DANGEROUS. I personally only use NATURAL flea collars.

• Dog flea sprays are very effective and are easy to use. It is important to use the proper amount of spray in proportion to the size of your dog. Also, use with caution, especially in the presence of small children. It is possible to find natural flea sprays made from essential oils that do not contain harmful pesticides.

Do I really need to treat my house too?

YES, YES, YES and YES again! If you only treat your dog and not his bed, the carpet, and everywhere he goes, he will just get re-infected and the process starts all over again. You need to interrupt the life cycle to fully rid them from your dog and the house. Since fleas multiply incredible quickly, it wouldn’t take long before there would be fleas all around your home….again. This requires effective control of dog fleas IN and OUTSIDE THE HOUSE as well as on your dog.

Personally, I would call an exterminating company to save you time, however, they can be very expensive. You would also need to choose a reputable one to ensure they will fully treat the house. If you want to skip the exterminator and save money, I would do the following:

Methods for flea control INSIDE your home

– Wash ALL sheets, pillows, bed spreads, blankets, doggie beds (everything basically) in HOT water using plenty of detergent. This includes your bed as well if your dog sleeps on it with you.

- Sodium borate is a powder that you can sprinkle on your carpet. I would use this first, and then vacuum.

- Vacuum EVERYWHERE and do it well! Take your time and discard the bag immediately afterwards. You can have your carpets professionally cleaned, but it can be rather expensive. Even though to you, it looks incredibly clean, fleas are hardy creatures so you may still need to use some additional treatment.

- Foggers are great for interrupting the flea life cycle in several stages.

Methods for dog flea control OUTSIDE your home

If your dog has an outdoor kennel, it must be cleaned very thoroughly by disinfecting it with appropriate products mentioned below. Just as you did inside, clean or throw away any blankets, pillows, or any other accessories that can act as a “nest” to the eggs, larvae and pupae.

- Insect growth regulators (IGR) will help destroy the flea eggs and larvae. I think these are the best because most other products are only effective against the adult flea. This targets the eggs and larvae which can be harder to kill and therefore is more effective.

- Concentrate on the dark areas and shadows. Spray a product containing IGR and follow the instructions on the number of applications recommended.

When should I go to the vet?

In regards to only dog fleas, you should VISIT YOUR VET when you notice the following:

- Obvious presence of adult fleas or their droppings on your dog

- Presence of itching, hair loss or dermatitis (this can be due to causes other than fleas but definitely worth a visit)

- Presence of segments of tapeworms in the feces. They appear white and are slightly larger than a grain of rice. They are fresh in the beginning and then dry out and become yellowish in color. They can also be seen peeping out from the anus or in the immediate vicinity.

You should also VISIT YOUR VET to get a checkup when…:

- Your dog lives with other animals or they share a space with stray animals (especially cats).

- Young, elderly, ill or immunosuppressed people are living in the same place as your dog.

- Any time you bring a new puppy or an adult dog into your family.

Here are some questions that I get asked ALL THE TIME.

At the cost of being repetitive I have included them here.

1) ” My dog has this weird spot that is so itchy. It can’t be dog fleas because I don’t see them.”

I hear this A LOT! Dog fleas allergy dermatitis often comes from the bite of just one or a few fleas. However, the flea may already be dead or have already been ingested (especially in the case of cats). Or possibly you just didn’t look well enough. Allergies to flea bites, in fact, almost always develop in animals with just mild infestations. Obviously, those with massive infestations are not allergic, otherwise unfortunately they most likely would have died from complications.

2) “Why do I need to do flea treatment in winter?”

Yes, it is true that dog fleas thrive in warm environments, but they can survive in colder temperatures too. In some cases, especially for dogs that live inside the home, flea treatment must be done throughout the year. This is because the eggs and larvae that normally grow only in warm spring/summer are found living in our warm and cozy homes. Therefore they can still be infested with dog fleas even in wintertime.

3) “Instead of using the spray, can’t I just use a flea collar?”

Yes, but under certain conditions.

1) Only use a safe product from a reputable company that has been around for years.

2) Change the collar as often as indicated on the instructions.

3) Check that your dog is tolerating the collar well and is not having a bad reaction around the neck or in general.

4) If your dog has a habit of taking off his collar and chewing on it, DO NOT USE the dog fleas collar because ingesting the chemicals on a flea collar is VERY DANGEROUS.

As a reminder……

In closing, I HIGHLY suggest talking with your local veterinarian to ensure you are using products that will work best for your situation. Getting rid of dog fleas is not easy and takes a lot of persistence, no matter which method you use.


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