The dread of the summer and humid months is best known by pet owners, given how the very temperature, among other conditions, is much favorable for fleas infestation. Let us learn more about what fleas are, their symptoms, treatment, prevention, etc.
What Are Fleas?
Fleas, generally speaking, are classified as insects, also called external parasites of mammals and birds. These bouncy, small, dark-brown parasites prefer pets over humans, especially dogs, on whose blood they feed on and reproduce, causing an infestation.
Though fleas don’t have wings to fly, they have strong hind legs, enabling them to jump from host to host. And, therefore all it would take for a full-blown flea infestation is a single flea finding its way onto your furry friend. They will hence bite your dog’s skin, feeding off their blood and causing irritation. However, the itching could turn severe for sensitive pets or those with flea allergies, with scratching and chewing as serious as to cause hair loss, inflammation, and secondary skin infections. Some pets are hypersensitive to flea saliva to the extent of a single flea causing itchiness all over their bodies.
How To Spot Fleas In Dogs?
Unlike symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs, fleas do not take months to show effect and are even easily visible to naked eyes, making the treatment easier and effective at an early stage. Well, we all know what a flea looks like; and, since they like shady and protected areas, your best bet at spotting one on your dog is by looking within the furriest and hidden places, including inner thighs, belly, etc.
Flea dirt alternatively can also signal a flea infestation. Flea dirt looks like flecks of pepper scattered across your dog’s skin, though for anyone unsure if it is flea dust, picking and placing some on a wet towel or paper is the way to go. Since flea dirt is nothing but flea feces, added with the fact that fleas thrive on a dog’s blood, the spreading of flecks like bloodstains is a sure indication.
Best Ways Of Treating Flea Infestations In Dogs
There are several ways to treat flea infestation in dogs ranging from home remedies to oral treatment, medications, etc. Let us have a look.
Oral And Topical Flea Control
Dog flea and tick pills, among other spot-on treatments for fleas and tick bites including injections, and liquid application, happen to be some of the quickest ways to get your dog rid of fleas. However, it is imperative to know that not all oral and topical flea control treatments are the same. One must consult a vet to pick the best oral treatment for their dog, depending on his individual needs.
Some treatments focus on getting rid of fleas only at an adult stage, while others target both adult and eggs, and even larvae fleas. Treatment that does not kill adult fleas mainly focuses on breaking the flea’s life cycle, eventually dissipating the entire population unless there is a constant source of new fleas for your dog.
Similarly, some treatments are inclusive of flea control and heartworm prevention, and you must avoid them without vet prescriptions. The same is the case for dogs with allergies and hypersensitivity, as their mode of treatment, frequency, and products are completely different, requiring extra caution. Although, that is not to say that over-the-counter medications and products are not available in the market or are not effective. Let us have a look at some common products available in the market.
Non-Prescribed Medication And Products To Treat Fleas In Dogs
Below is the list of flea control products you will readily come across at the vet store and their effectiveness in treating fleas.
Flea Combs –
Flea combs, though, can help you get rid of dog fleas at the time and do not present a permanent solution to the same or inhibit flea occurrence in any way. What’s more, since a flea can hop pretty fast, the chances of the comb catching one are only if the infestation is severe. Nevertheless, if you decide to check fleas on your dog using a comb, choose one with fine teeth to have a more precise application.
Flea Powder –
Flea powder is certainly a luring choice given its ease of application over other methods. Though, unfortunately, it is not the most effective. Applying flea powder on your dog will only get rid of fleas for a couple of days. Not to mention how it only targets adult fleas and not the larvae or eggs, making it an ineffective solution in the long run.
Flea Shampoos –
The market contains several flea and tick shampoos for pets, which, when used properly, can be quite effective in providing temporary relief to your furry friend.
However, to ensure that your dog can withstand being lathered up for at least 10 minutes is a must, as any shampoo takes a minimum of 10 minutes to sink and show effect. You can follow up the bath by combing your dog’s fur using a flea comb to brush out the dead fleas. Choose a non-toxic shampoo for pups and know that this is only a temporary solution, and you will need to perform a more strict action for permanent results.
Flea Collars –
Flea collars contain substances such as pesticides that continually kill fleas for up to 12 months. Depending on your dog’s needs, habits, and other medical conditions, it is best to take expert consultation on which kind of flea collar will suit them best.
There is always some or the other sort of home remedy to fight or alleviate a particular health issue, and it is the same with flea infestation.
Pure Coconut Oil –
A compound called lauric acid in pure coconut oil converts to a monolaurin when you apply it to your pup. Apart from its properties to kill off fleas, monolaurin is also known for being antiseptic and soothing.
When you apply pure coconut oil to your dog’s skin, it will, in a matter of hours, fight common to severe infestations while soothing irritation and inflammation caused by flea bites. You can apply the coconut oil to your dog’s skin directly 10 minutes before a shower or mix it in with shower gel in a ratio of 1:1, followed by thorough cleaning of 10 minutes at the very least before rinse.
Baking Soda –
Baking soda can penetrate the exoskeletons of the fleas, making them dry up from the inside and die. The method, though, takes a little longer to show effect.
Epsom Salt –
Much like baking soda, Epsom salt dehydrates the fleas, including eggs and the larvae, causing them to die and wither eventually. Furthermore, Epsom salt’s antibiotics and anti-inflammatory properties help soothe your dog’s skin from any irritation or inflammation. The application is as simple as soaking the dog in an Epsom salt bath for 10 minutes before rinsing it off thoroughly.
Treating The Surroundings And Prevention
Wash all the bedcovers and blankets using hot and soapy water to get rid of adult fleas. Vacuum the carpets thoroughly, emptying the waste somewhere far and safe. Follow it up by steam clean for better results and to kill larvae.
Chemical treatments, including foggers, especially boric-acid-based products, are safer for households with small children and are effective. However, if you want something much more specific and all-around effective, go for an insect growth regulator, which kills all other life cycle stages of a flea, preventing future infestations. Consulting an exterminating company is your best bet at ensuring that not a single flea trace is left behind in the house, as the same can again form into a full-grown infestation if overlooked.
If you happen to have a dog house or kennels outside, make sure you thoroughly clean those up, followed by flea repellents, insecticides, or insect growth regulators in the form of sprays. Choose a more sunlight stable product such as Pyriproxifen or Methoprene, though both are equally effective. In the case of small children in the house or a vegetable garden, opt for a non-toxic option such as diatomaceous earth. Again, there are still many other ways to prevent and treat fleas outdoors. Consulting a professional is a good way to ensure that you only choose what’s best as per your needs aside from other environmental factors, etc.
While to prevent fleas from entering your home might not be entirely in your hands, the least you could do is avert a severe infestation by regularly keeping an eye out for your dog’s proper health and his changing habits. Frequent vet visits and cleanliness both outdoors and indoors further are a few steps every pet owner must strictly pay attention to.