Fleas and Flea Problems in Dogs

Tags: Dogs, Health, Skin Problems, Fleas, Eggs, Larvae, Parasites, Life Cycle

Picture of a common flea

Picture of a common dog flea
Photo ©2005 General - Big Paws Only

Information on Fleas

Understanding the Fleas Habits

First we need to understand the Flea. Large Flea populations can be found in warmer weather climates - but will survive just about anywhere in any environment. They typically live between 6 and 12 months and one couple can produce millions on offspring during their lifespan.

The Flea life cycle is can range in length but starts with the female laying eggs on its host - your dog or cat. The eggs can remain in the dog's coat if untreated or simply fall or be shaken off. The result can be eggs and fleas maturing in their life cycle, found throughout your home - the carpet, cracks and crevices, furniture, bedding, and the yard; essentially everywhere. Once the eggs hatch, the next stage of life is born of tiny worm-like larvae. The larvae begin to pupate into mature adults. These adults are ready to attack - and must for their survival for they rely on blood for their nutrition.

Once adults, fleas use their hind legs (as modified specifically for) to jump when your dogs come by. They actually use vibrations on the floor to determine when to jump and will grab on to the host as they pass by. Some Fleas are known to jump up to 3 feet vertically.

Treating the Flea Problem

To battle the problem, you need to be patient and thorough. Several products are available on the market that work to combat different stages of the life cycle; eggs, larvae and adults.

"A reasonable amount of fleas is good for a dog; it keeps him from brooding over being a dog." - Edward Noyes Westcott
Dips, shampoos, powders and sprays are common and effective methods of treating your pet. Running a flea comb through your dogs coat will help to rid the living and the dead, including eggs that have yet to hatch, from the fur. But treating the animal is just the beginning. Fleas as mentioned above, can be every where in the home. Use powder products on the floors before vacuuming and clean out your vacuum when done. Be vigilant cleaning the floors for up to four weeks. A fogger can also help to kill those in nooks and crannies, baseboards, and other crevices they might be lingering. Wash your pets bedding once or twice a week, also for up to 4 weeks. Use disinfectants on hard washable surfaces. Essentially, you want to kill everything you can - those that still survive will be left with nothing to live on and will eventually die.

Preventing Fleas in the Future

Even if your dog is an indoor pet, you will want to eliminate the possibility of a return infestation by tackling the outdoor environment like your front and back yard. There are insecticides that your veterinarian can recommend and some are regionally specific so check with the doctor. Use this method around your house by entry ways and paths your dog use around the yard. Fleas don't survive well in direct sunlight so be sure to increase your efforts in shady areas under the trees, gazebos, and behind bushes.

There are also natural non-chemical solutions available to fight both fleas and ticks in the yard. Nematodes, a flea's natural enemy are microscopic soil worms that kill fleas in their second stage of their life cycle. They also are known to attack white grubs and crickets. They can be found at nurseries and garden centers as a product to mix with water to be sprayed. Guineas are small birds that can be used to eat all of the other little bugs in the yard including ticks. They are beneficial to gardens as they eat common enemies of plants and are not themselves harmful to your flowers and plants.

Always be sure to check with your veterinarian using chemicals and pesticides, even if you use an over-the-counter product.

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