Fleas are pests that appear in the spring and summer, although in milder climates they can be a year-round problem. They are annoying and can irritate humans and dogs but also have the potential to put you both at risk for infections and other complications. The signs of infestation can be subtle so check your dog regularly. Choosing the right treatment option can ensure that you and your dog remain comfortable and healthy.
Fleas are actually amazing creatures that can jump up to 100 times their height, which makes it easier for the flea to leave one host and find the next one. A single adult female flea can lay up to 2,000 eggs in her 50-day lifetime. Fleas prefer to bite cats or dogs but will bite humans if it is the only blood source available.
Fleas lay their eggs on the host animal but the eggs actually fall wherever the animal goes–in the grass, on the couch. They hatch in two to five days and feed on organic debris until they spin a pupae or cocoon. In the pupae, the flea metamorphoses into an adult before it hatches. Fleas need 70 to 75 percent humidity to hatch. Surprisingly, only about 20 percent of the eggs survive to hatch.
The biggest indicator that your dog has fleas is its constant scratching. When fleas bite an animal, they leave saliva behind, which irritates the skin and causes itchy red bumps. Check the tail and hind legs of your dog for tiny black specks that resemble pepper. If these specks turn a damp paper towel reddish brown, then it is actually flea feces and your dog has fleas, even if you don't see them. Fleas will also infest furniture, carpets and bedding as well as outside areas.
Complications arise from dog allergies to the flea saliva. The saliva causes an allergic reaction and raises red bumps along the most bitten areas. Your dog can scratch these areas to the point of breaking the skin, risking infection. Fleas are also carriers of tapeworms and can pass these on to your dog with their bites.
There are many types of treatments available. Natural remedies include adding garlic or brewers yeast to your dog's diet. Flea shampoos, collars and sprays can effectively treat the fleas that are on your dog's body but remember to treat the areas where the dog plays and sleeps to prevent re-infestation. Topical treatments such as Advantage or Frontline are an oily substance that you squeeze between the shoulder blades of your dog monthly. These are not absorbed into the dog's bloodstream and can be purchased from the vet. Remember to vacuum thoroughly after any treatment to remove flea eggs.