A flea infestation can be fatal if not controlled on time. Dog Fleas are small insects with no wings that feed on animal blood. They can transmit diseases and cause allergies or anemia, along with causing discomfort and itching. Although, more than 2,200 species of fleas are recognized worldwide. Only a few species commonly infest house pets in America. Two commonly found flea species are the cat flea or Ctenocephalides felis, and the dog flea or Ctenocephalides canis. But mostly, the fleas found on a dog are cat fleas only, and cats only have cat fleas. So, if your dog has fleas, probably your cat does too. Fleas are not only trouble for dogs but can cause severe irritation in other animals and humans. The effects of fleas are not only limited to allergies, but they can transmit tapeworm infections and typhus-like rickettsiae also.
How to spot fleas on dogs?
The suspicion begins with some scratching around the ear or neck. Or you find some specks around the house that maybe you might have missed before. Or you suddenly notice that the beautiful hair of the dog that was so thick is looking very thin these days. These are all signs of fleas. Every pet parent must know how to spot the signs of a possible flea infestation. Some of the signs are-
- Visible Fleas– The obvious one is if you can see them, they are fleas. But you must know how a flea looks to spot it. A full-grown flea is about one-eighth of an inch in size. It is reddish-brown and very thin. It is hard to see the full appearance of a flea without a microscope, but they have big back legs. They can jump long upward and outward for a minimum of 12 inches in a single leap.
- Scratching– Scratching is the number one give away of fleas. Even if you don’t see fleas walking around on your dog or catch them red-handed, scratching or biting the fur is a well-known sign of fleas. Itching is the result of a saliva-type substance that fleas secrete when they bite. So, they not only cause sharp pain when they bite but a nasty liquid too that irritates dogs.
- Flea Dirt– Fleas leave behind a substance called “flea dirt. It is a tiny powder-type substance that looks like pepper. You can spot it around your home, the places your dog likes to sit on, or its skin. Common places to look for flea dirt are your dog’s bedding, its favorite corner of the house, the carpet. The flea dirt is actually tiny bits of dried blood that the flea sucked out of your dog. If you rehydrate it on a wet paper towel, it turns from black to brown and then back to red.
- Flea eggs– Apart from dirt, other things that flea drop around your home are eggs. Fleas lay eggs on the dogs. The eggs are tiny white ovals, but they mostly fall off the dog and into the environment around it like its bed, your bed, the carpet, that corner, only to hatch and turn into flea larvae a few days later.
- Larvae– Larvae is the next stage of eggs, and it is visible too. Larvae are little, squiggly, worm-looking things with brown heads; it feeds on all those specks until it is capable of wrapping itself around into a cocoon called a pupa. The transition from larva to pupa takes about 3-4 weeks. After that, they grow into adult fleas who are looking for a ride and opportunity to feed on little of your dog’s or even your blood.
- Tapeworm– If you see tapeworms slipping out of your pet’s rectum or just roaming around your home, it is a tell that your dog has been a victim of fleas. Tapeworms are internal parasites, and they are white or pinkish-white and look like small pieces of rice.
- Hair loss– Hair loss is not a direct effect of fleas but a side effect. If you notice your dog losing hair along with itching and biting its hair, that is probably, because it has fleas. The most common parts to spot flea are the neck and shoulder blades, the base of the tail, and the back of the legs of your dog. As a result, your dog will bite onto these places and loose hair from those spots. If the flea attack is intense, you will be able to spot fleas on the bare areas like your dog’s belly, too.
- Irritated skin– Check the skin of your dog regularly; if the skin looks irritated or if you can spot flea bites, you must get on the flea treatment immediately. Flea bites are small red bumps that must be visible on the back and neck and the base of the tail of the dog. Fleabites are not only a sign of fleas, but they can lead to flea allergy dermatitis or fleabite hypersensitivity. Fleabite dermatitis makes the skin itchy, red, and scaly. Further, it paves way for secondary skin infections, too.
- Pale gums– One of the severe outcomes of fleas is anemia. The large infestation of fleas can put small puppies at the risk of developing Anemia, or a loss of red blood cells. Fleas can suck-up up to 15 times their body weight’s worth of blood. Pale gums are often a symptom of anemia.
How to catch fleas?
If you suspect a flea infestation, the first thing you can do to draw away fleas is to set a Light trap. You can use it to detect fleas in the home. Fill a bowl with soapy water and place it on the floor at night near a nightlight. Fleas will come out of their hiding places and jump toward the light; in turn, fall into the bowl. That way, you can be sure if you have fleas in your home or not.