June 24th •
Summertime means even more time in the sun with your dog. Unfortunately, the warm summer months also mean that you have to start worrying about fleas.
Fleas thrive in hot, humid conditions, and their numbers begin to rise significantly as summer approaches. If you live in the South, then you may have to deal with fleas throughout the year.
Dogs are one of the favorite animal hosts for fleas. They’ll jump from dog to dog, infesting the fur and reproducing. Fleas are quite agile, and it doesn’t take much contact with an infected animal for your dog to get fleas of their own.
Flea bites can cause quite a bit of irritation for your dog. Many dogs will respond by aggressively chewing and scratching the bitten areas, trying to get some relief from the itching. This chewing only makes matters worse, and can lead to sores paws and infections.
Although fleas can be a nuisance, there are some easy steps that you can take to protect your dog and keep them itch free. Here, we’ll show you how to protect your dog and your home from flea infestations.
There are a number of different insects that can infect a dog’s fur, so it can be tough to tell right away if your dog’s itching is due to fleas. However, fleas do have some distinctive traits that make them fairly easy to spot, if you look closely.
Unlike mites, which tend to burrow under the skin and are hard to see, fleas do their work above the surface of the skin. They can be seen moving through your dog’s fur, and you may even be able to spot them jumping around.
Fleas tend to be dark colored, and are about the size of a grain of sand. They don’t like light, and will often flee to the underbelly areas, or behind the legs. When looking for fleas, you should take a look at your dog’s stomach area, as well as behind the ears.
Fleas also leave behind traces of their feeding. These specks, called “flea dirt” tend to look like small grains of pepper. These little flecks are the flea’s excrement, largely made up of the dog’s blood.
If you notice what appears to be flea dirt, take some tweezers and grab a few specks. Put it on a white background and see if turns red. If it does, your dog likely has fleas.
There are quite a few options out there for dealing with fleas. Some of these, such as flea shampoos, work quickly and cost little. Other options, such as fogging the house, are quite expensive.
Here are some of the most common ways of getting fleas off your dog and out of your house.
Oral Flea Control
One of the best ways to get rid of fleas, as well as prevent them, is to use oral flea medication. These medications are designed to kill fleas, as well as target the eggs, preventing further spreading.
There are also a number of topical flea treatments that do the same thing, killing adults and preventing eggs from hatching.
Both topical and oral flea control treatments come in over the counter and prescription form. The treatment option that is best for your dog will largely depend on the severity of their flea infestation.
If your dog has fleas, or you are worried about them getting fleas, speak to your vet. They can help you choose a flea control that is appropriate for your dog.
Prescription Flea Control Medication
If you need to effectively wipe out fleas, then prescription medications are your best bet. These are stronger than the treatments you’ll be able to get at pet stores, and will work better on severe infestations.
Bravecto is one of the most commonly used treatments, and it can start to work within a few hours. It will keep your dog safe from fleas for up to 3 months as well.
There are plenty of other options, so speak to your vet about which one is best for your dog. Some will work by killing the adult fleas, whereas others target the eggs.
Some dogs are allergic to flea saliva, which can make the itching even worse. If your dog has a severe reaction to fleas, make sure you choose a treatment option that kills adults as well as eggs.
Prevention is the best way to deal with fleas. If you live in hot, humid areas, you need to be prepared for ticks throughout the year, and should give your dog medication every few months.
If you live in an area where it only gets warm starting in spring, give your dog preventative tick medication before flea numbers start to rise in early summer.
Nonprescription Flea Control Medication
If you don’t want to head to the vet to get a prescription, you can find a range of flea control products that are over the counter. Although these products are much easier to get, and are more affordable, they usually aren’t quite as effective.
There are many different types of flea products, from sprays and shampoos to pills and collars. Not all of these work, and they may only kill a portion of the fleas.
However, there are a number of good flea shampoos out there, and they can be effective when used on fairly minor flea infestations. However, if you notice that your dog is swarming with fleas, you should head to the vet and get a stronger treatment.
Dog Flea Shampoos
Dog flea shampoos are often the first option to get rid of fleas. However, you need to make sure that you follow instructions and use the product correctly. If you don’t, some fleas will survive and continue to reproduce.
The biggest mistake dog owners make is not soaking the fur for long enough. It takes time for shampoos to kill fleas and get to all of the eggs. If you rush the process, some fleas and eggs will get left behind, and your dog will soon be itching like crazy.
Leave the shampoo on for at least 10 minutes, and make sure to work it through your dog’s coat thoroughly. If they have long fur, make sure you get down to the roots.
After the bath, you should comb your dog to remove all of the dead fleas and eggs. This can prevent irritation, and ensure that your dog’s coat is truly flea free.
Do note that tick shampoos are not a preventative treatment. That means that your dog is still at risk of catching fleas. If you have multiple dogs in the house, make sure to treat them at the same time so that one doesn’t infest the other right after treatment.
Once you’ve gotten all of the fleas out of your dog’s coat, your job is only halfway done. You need to make sure that they won’t catch any more fleas. That means disinfecting the environment around you and your dog.
Although you may have little interest in flea biology and reproduction, it’s important to understand some basics about the flea life cycle when trying to prevent them.
Fleas live their lives in a few distinct phases. They start out as eggs laid by females. As the female draws blood from an animal lost, she’ll start to lay eggs at a high rate, often in the hundreds.
Some of these eggs will stay on dogs, while others will fall off and spread around the surrounding area. They can find their way into cracks in the floor, as well onto rugs and furniture.
The eggs then hatch, progressing to the next stage of the flea life cycle. This is the larval stage, when fleas are small worms. The larvae are quite tough and can survive in a wide range of environments. They can live in the carpet, on furniture, or in the yard.
Larvae can feed on just about anything, including the flea dirt produced by adults. Once the larvae have fed for a while, they form a cocoon, waiting for the right time to molt and become full adult fleas.
Getting rid of fleas is often difficult because of how tough the cocoons are. Even if you clean the area, cocoons can survive, waiting until conditions are right to molt and become adults.
Cocoons detect temperature and humidity, and can even hatch when they notice animals around them. They then molt, turning into adults and finding a host. They feed and lay eggs, starting the flea life cycle all over again.
This whole process can take around 2 weeks. If left alone, fleas can reproduce by the thousands, leading to infestations.
Fleas are tough, and it can be difficult to fully treat your home. They can live on most surfaces, as well as get into clothes and bedding. Even if you kill all of the adult fleas, you have to make sure that there are no eggs or larvae remaining.
Once you’ve treated all of the animals in your home, you’ll need to start cleaning. Take bedding and clothing and wash them in warm, soapy water. You should also make sure to clean or throw away any of the blankets or bedding in your dog’s crate.
You’ll also need to deal with all of the surfaces around the house. Rugs and carpets are favorite hide outs for fleas and their larvae. Vacuuming and shampooing is a good place to start. However, there may still be some eggs and adult fleas alive, especially if you have a severe infestation. In this case, chemical treatment may be required.
You may also need to fog the entire house to prevent any fleas from returning. There is a wide range of ways to do this, including using boric acid based foggers. You can also hire a professional exterminator to ensure that no fleas will be left behind.
Many foggers will only kill a small portion of fleas, and won’t do anything to eggs. If you still have fleas, you should call a pro. It can be expensive, but it can save you money in the long run.
Once you’ve dealt with the inside of your house, you’ll still need to make sure that the yard is treated. Sprays and insecticides are effective, coating grass and plants so that fleas don’t have any cover.
You should also use an insect growth regulator. These chemicals prevent larvae from growing, stopping the flea life cycle before they can mature into adults.
While treating your yard with chemicals, don’t allow your dog to run around outside. The time required for chemicals to reach safe levels will vary depending on the treatment, so check the product label for directions.
If you are worried about using toxic chemicals to treat your yard, there are a number of other options. One of the best is diatomaceous earth, which won’t be toxic to many types of plants, and will be safe for families with small children who play outside.
You may also be able to find worm treatments. Although this may not sound appealing, these small worms are an effective way of getting rid of larvae. They move through the grass, eating larvae and eggs before they can turn into adult fleas. These worms are also one of the safest ways of getting rid of fleas.
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