You’ve noticed that your dog cannot stop itching and scratching, and you wonder why? You can’t tell for sure whether it might have fleas or it’s something else? Here we have assembled a set of practical tips on how to check your dog for fleas.
But before we go into how to spot fleas, it is best to learn a thing or two about fleas.
Dog Fleas 101
There are over 2,200 flea species in the world. Most of these blood-sucking parasites can be found in parts of the world with a lighter climate. They thrive in places where the temperature is around 35°C and the humidity is set at approximately 70 percent.
These little buggers are one of the most active insects. They love to crawl or jump from one to another passing animal, and cling to their new host, where they feed themselves with blood. That irritates the dog, makes it want to scratch and bit itself, often leading to severe inflammation.
Even though there are over 2,200 species of fleas worldwide, the most common one is not the dog flea. To makes things even more ironic, it is the cat flea that is the most common flea that attacks dogs. If your dog has fleas, then it’s very likely that it got cat fleas!
The scientific name for the cat flea is Ctenocephalides Felis, and aside from dogs, it can also be found with cats, domestic rabbits, raccoons, foxes, ferrets, opossums, wolves, and so on. And as mentioned earlier, they have no problem jumping from one of those animals onto your dog.
Early Signs That Your Dog Has Fleas
The sooner you spot the fleas, the better. Not only it’s much easier to take care of fleas in the early stages when there aren’t that many, but it will spare the dog out of lots of itching, biting, scratching, and even skin inflammation. If the fleas persist for a more extended period, then things can get even worse for the dog as it will be irritated all the time and can become very aggressive towards everyone.
In some cases, fleas can be the cause of some severe complications in dogs. Some of the most serious complications include anaemia, flea allergy dermatitis, and tapeworms. Each condition requires the attention of a veterinarian, and each needs to be treated separately. That translates into spending more money and more time on treating your dog instead of having fun.
Because of that, you need to know your dog and watch out if it starts to behave a bit out of the ordinary. For example, it starts to scratch more than often. Scratching and itching are nothing new with most dogs. But when that scratching and itching is more frequent, it is than when you need to check it for fleas. As the number of fleas increases, the dog will also bite itself and lick its skin.
The easiest and most straightforward way to check a dog for fleas is to check its skin for red spots on the skin. They are easy to spot, and if you know your dog well then you will surely know if they haven’t been there before.
The third hint that should raise some red flags is spotting the fleas. The fleas are commonly found at the dog’s abdomen, lower back, the base of the tail, around the ears, and or on the neck. They can be up to 3 millimeters long and have black or dark brown bodies. Due to that, they are not that hard to spot, especially with dogs that are light-colored. In case you can’t spot them, you need to comb your dog with a flea comb. Just after a few strokes, you will be able to pick up some fleas or flea dirt which is brown.
Other than the fleas and their dirt, sometimes you can spot their eggs. They look like small white ovals and can be found everywhere; on your dog, on the dog’s bed, on the carpet, and everywhere where your dog hangs. If you miss them, after a few days, they will turn into flea larvae. They look like little warms with brown heads. After some time they will wrap themselves into pupae. Pupae are a type of cocoon. Within three or four weeks, they will become fully grown fleas and ready to wreak havoc.
Fleas often carry tapeworms and transfer them to the dog by biting them. Tapeworms are a type of parasite that can be either pink or white and have a rectangular form. They can be spotted as they slip out of your dog’s rectum. However, they are not sure sign as the dog might have gotten them from another place. But in some cases, tapeworms can be a sign of fleas.
Other Signs of Fleas
Hair loss and pale gums are also symptoms that your dog might be having fleas. Hair loss can be due to other conditions, but most times is because of flea bites.
Dogs that are continuously biting and licking often pull some of their hair. Pale gums are an even more severe indication that your dog has a severe flea infestation.
That is so because the fleas are extracting so much blood that the dog’s body cannot produce enough red blood cells. At this point, an urgent visit to the Veterinarian is a must as you don’t want that to turn into something more complicated.
Dog Flea Prevention
Flea prevention is way better than dealing with fleas. To this end, there are plenty of available solutions, from prescription applications to special collars, flea shampoos, and chewable flea chews.
By using such preventatives, you can effectively spare your dog from flea infestations and you from the troubles of dealing with full-scale flea invasion. It’s also worth mentioning that using preventatives is way cheaper than dealing with fleas.
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Pete Decker is the Lead Editor at The Goody Pet. He is a passionate wildlife educator and loves to share his experiences on pets. During his free time, you can find him cozying around his 2 adorable Labradors (Tobi & Kobi).
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