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Dog - Health & Wellness

A Dog Fight Against Flea Infestation

You feel dirty just saying it: “fleas.” These parasites can make you and your dog want to pull your hair out, so take a look at our tips below and arm yourself for the fight against fleas.

The facts on fleas

Waging a successful fight against fleas means knowing your enemy. Take a look below to find out more about this pesky little pest.

Appearance

Fleas are small in size (1/12–1/16" long) and reddish-brown in color. Their bodies are hard, flat and covered with short spines and long legs for jumping.

Flea detection

Fleas are not picky eaters. If it bleeds, they’ll feed. But, pets that spend a great deal of time outside are more at risk because this is where adult fleas live on wildlife hosts.

Life cycle

Egg
An adult female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day, and once the eggs are in place they take two weeks to hatch into caterpillar-like larvae.

Larvae
When fleas are in this stage, they feed off of organic waste inside of your dog’s coat. After a few weeks as larvae, fleas will then spin a cocoon.

Pupae
After spinning a cozy cocoon, fleas usually spend around two weeks as pupae. But, until something jolts them out of their slumber they can stay in this stage for several weeks. The cocoon’s resilience is exactly what makes re-infestation a common problem for pet parents even after proper treatment.

Adult
Once the pupae breaks free from their cocoon they are now a full-fledged, persistent, itchy and dangerous adult.

Signs of flea infestation include:

  • Pepper-like black specks in your pet's coat or on their bedding, which are flea feces
  • Light-colored specks in your pet's coat or on their bedding, which are flea eggs
  • Itchy skin and excessive scratching
  • Excessive biting or gnawing on fur and legs
  • Patchy hair loss, especially near the tail or neck
  • Lethargy (especially in severe cases)
  • Visible insects scurrying inside of your pet’s coat

Flea-related problems

Potential problems

  • These blood-sucking buggers are not only a nuisance, they can also lead to other serious medical concerns.

Flea allergy dermatitis

  • If the itching bite of a flea isn’t bad enough, some pets can develop an allergy to flea saliva, which causes even more irritation, itchiness and aggravation with every bite.
  • Signs of Flea Allergy Dermatitis are usually visible through small scabs and redness at the bite site. If your pet already has other allergies, they are especially at risk.
  • Removing existing fleas and preventing future infestations will usually take care of the problem. Your veterinarian can also prescribe steroids or antibiotics to relieve the itch.

Tapeworms

  • If your pet catches fleas, they can often ingest a few fleas as they self-groom. Then (brace yourself…) if one of those fleas is carrying tapeworm larva, a pest will develop in your dog’s intestinal track and begin to grow.
  • Yeah, and to make matters a little more unsavory, to spot tapeworms, you’ll need to look for segments of the pest around the anal region of your dog or in their feces. They’ll look like small pieces of rice.
  • ou’ll need a trip to veterinarian as soon as possible.

Flea-bite anemia

  • This comes with a severe flea infestation, when a large number of fleas are feeding on your pet for extended periods of time. If your pup is young, they are especially at risk for flea-bite anemia.
  • Unfortunately, treatment for flea-bite anemia usually requires blood transfusions, iron supplementation or hospitalization. Flea bite anemia can even be fatal. So take caution, especially if your pet is under 12 weeks old or begins to act lethargic.

Protect your pet

Because flea infestations are cyclical, killing live adult fleas is not enough. Flea eggs and larvae usually make up around 95% of an infestation’s population, so using a spot on treatment will kill and repel flea eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. There are also collars available and several shampoos to choose from. The Petco Grooming Salon also offers a flea relief service.

Treating your pet's home & yard

If fleas have found their way onto your pet, odds are they have found their way into your home as well. When treating your pet’s environment you have a variety of options. Petco has a large variety of powders and sprays safe for use around pets. You can also try foggers, which release insect growth inhibitors to control eggs, larvae and adults. This treatment option can be a bit intensive because you have to repeat the process three weeks later to kill any newly hatched adults.

You can also call a professional exterminator. Although this option is a little more costly, it involves no labor on your end, and is usually guaranteed to work.

This is one of the most important stages in the process, so whatever you do, don’t skip it. Prevention is key when it comes to protecting your pup from pests. Protect your pet, your home, and your yard to prevent infestations.