Attention Dog Owners: Fleas Cause More Than Just Itching
Fleas are common to all parts of the globe, present in over 2000 varieties. The most common varieties in the United States are the cat flea and the dog flea -don't let the names fool you though - most fleas will feed on any warm-blooded animal, including humans.
These external parasites eat the blood of their hosts, resulting in painful and itchy bites along the skin. They are very talented jumpers, springing distances over a foot in order to attach to a host. While they most often cause incredibly annoying itching, they can also transmit other undesirable organisms like tapeworms and the bacteria responsible for the plague.
How to Recognize an Infestation
The best way to detect an infestation is not by looking for the fleas themselves, but rather their feces and bites. Flea feces look a lot like pepper or dirt sprinkled through your dog's hair and bedding. The identity of this substance can be tested by squishing some of it between a paper towel. Flea feces contain dried blood and therefore look red when spread out or when they come in contact with water.
Fleas can make their home on almost any part of your pets, but they prefer the skin of the bottom and thighs. If you see your dog scratching or biting these areas, fleas may be the culprit. Also, look for bite marks as other conditions including dry skin and mange mites can cause itching.
Risks Associated With a Flea Infestation
Fleas can reproduce incredibly fast (a female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day: that's over 1000 eggs a month, from just one flea). If a flea infestation is allowed to flourish, eventually the swelling population will seek out new hosts, humans if possible. Fleas are also particularly hungry creatures, capable of biting approximately 350 times per day. Dogs can feel fleas moving around in their hair, adding to the extreme irritation of an infestation.
Sores and Innfection: Itching can break the skin, increasing the likelihood of a secondary infection.
Balding: Dogs will often become obsessed with keeping clean, which can result in bald spots.
Tapeworms: Tapeworms can also be transmitted to dogs if a flea is eaten, common in dogs because they attempt to relieve their itching by biting. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms if eaten accidentally during chewing at an itching spot. While tapeworms aren't necessarily fatal, they can cause mild intestinal discomfort, not to mention being mentally unsettling to consider.If your dog can't seem to maintain a constant weight, they may have a tapeworm.
Getting Rid of the Fleas
An infestation of fleas can be very difficult to clear as fleas have multiple parts to their life cycle, some of which (eggs in particular) are harder than others to eradicate. Several treatment methods as well as repetition of treatments are necessary to successfully kill a flea infestation.
On Your Dog: A combination of topical treatments, oral medications and flea shampooing should be used to rid your dog of fleas. Repeat this treatment every week to 10 days, several times to make sure all life cycles have been eliminated. Vetionx offers two great products for treating fleas:
- Flea Shampoo: Vetionx's Defendex pest shampoo contains aloe to soothe skin and treats fleas, ticks and mange. Because it's made with natural ingredients and not pesticides, it's also very safe to use even on young puppies. (Most grocery store flea shampoos are not.)
- Skin-Healing Medicine: Vetionx also carries a natural homeopathic medicine, Derma-IonX for skin issues including sores, redness, balding, hives, and roughness. The really nice thing about this product is that you can just add it to your dog's water bowl and they won't know it's in there. It's also very safe to use with no side effects.
In Your Home: Also be sure to treat the areas where your dog sleeps and relaxes. Vacuuming is VITAL. Fleas will often leave their hosts and lay their eggs in rugs or on furniture. Foggers, powders/dusts, or sprays are other good ways to kill an indoor flea infestation. Repeat home treatment along with re-treatment of your pet.
Fleas are incredibly successful breeders and are difficult to completely eradicate. Due to the exploratory nature of most pets, it can also be very difficult to prevent flea infestations. Being aware of the signs and consistently monitoring your dog's behavior can help avoid irritating and frustrating flea infestations in the future.