Sorry about the shout, but this is a misnomer that is SO prevalent that it needs to be shouted down once and for all. Fleas feed on your dog’s blood – NOT on your dog’s fur or hair. All the hair does, is provide a comfortable, snug environment to hide, and to feed.
And fleas don’t only hide in your dog’s hair or fur. Here’s an interesting scientific snippet: fleas can spend as much as 90% of their life away from their host. You actually read that right.
These little critters lay their eggs and breed all over your house. They only jump on your dog when they need to feed.
So, when you have an infestation, your dog is the proverbial feeding bowl, and possibly responsible for bringing the fleas into the house, but that’s all. The infestation is the flea lifecycle and the flea’s incredible ability to adapt to human environments in action.
How did my dog pick up fleas in the first place?!
Fleas are fiddly little critters. They’re typical parasites – opportunistic, because that’s how they survive, adaptable, because that’s how they find breeding spots, and hardy, because, well, they’re parasites.
And then there’s the icky-factor and the stigma attached to fleas that have is all living in denial. As soon as our vet diagnoses Fido with fleas, we second guess. It has to be something else, right?! Maybe the scratching and nibbling is a behavioral issue. Or maybe it’s dry skin.
ANYTHING BUT FLEAS!
Fleas can be tricky to get rid of, but that’s no reason for concern. Your vet will help your pet’s recovery, and ridding your house of these pests can be reasonably simple.
The most important thing is prevention.
So, let’s explore where your dog may pick these pests up in the first place!
#1 Mixing with the wrong crowd
Other animals – pets or wildlife – are often the source. We all know how sociable dogs are. Any opportunity to nose at another living thing is akin to Christmas.
The friendly pup in the park may have been a flea-taxi. Your cat may have brought them after its nightly meander. In fact, the cat flea is way more common than the dog flea, and it’s not a picky feeder at all. Dog and cat blood will do equally well, thank you very much.
Curiosity may kill your cat, but it will most likely give your dog fleas. Our pooches love to investigate. In your garden, or on a walk, it will come into contact with spaces previously occupied by a variety of living things. The smells these critters left behind when they scurried off are lingering and irresistible.
So, your dog is prone to sniffing around on a patch of grass recently occupied by a deer, or coyote, or rodent, or rabbit, or bird – and all of these carry fleas, which will happily make a long jump to have a ride on this new host.
How do I prevent that!
A bit of logic. This is all about balancing your dog’s health with the pleasure you get from living close to nature.
Don’t leave things out that are bound to tempt things like raccoons. Rubbish bags, dog food, seeds, and nuts you feed to squirrels and birds, all of these will attract all kinds of creatures.
And, because you don’t want to take the joys of a good old romp with other dogs away from your pooch, use flea treatment shampoo regularly. That way, you’ll stop an infestation before it has a chance to get a foothold.
#2 Your humble abode
These little guys are experts on breeching your home! And once they’re in, what is yours is theirs. They’ll find places to hide, places to lay eggs, and when necessary, ways to hitch a ride from one host to another.
Typically, they cross your threshold in the fur of visiting pets (whether you know about the playdate or not), and in things like mice that live in or around your home.
And this takes no time at all. You can do the math if you want to. A single female flea lays up to 40 flea eggs per day. See how quickly it can all turn into a fiasco?
How do I keep them out?!
If your dog has a playdate with a friend, just ask the owner if the visitor’s flea treatment is up to date. When your kids play with other kids, you can safely assume that their vaccinations are up to date. But not with dogs. So, ask.
Make sure your home is rodent-free. This is a real and present cause of flea outbreaks.
Act quickly when you spot these little blighters. Because their breeding cycle is so incredibly fast, one day’s delay can make the problem a lot more difficult to manage. And make sure you get the kind of treatment for your home and your pets that targets every stage of the flea’s lifecycle.
Wash, wash, and wash all your pet’s bedding in hot water – ideally around 122-degrees Fahrenheit.
Then vacuum everything and dispose of the bags outside – as far from the house as you can.
If you have a carpet steamer – give your carpets a once over. This will help to kill the last of the stubborn flea larvae.
Your vet will recommend a flea spray, which you can use on your furniture, bedding, your pet’s bedding – every place your common sense tells you could be a spot where flea eggs can pop out larvae.
Vacuum seal your kids’ soft toys and pop them into the freezer for a day or two.
#3 The hairdresser is the flea’s favorite gossip spot
This is really more than just your pet groomer – it’s everywhere your pooch gets to socialize out of your sight. Kennels, doggy daycare, kennels, and even your vet (yes, even his practice is not immune).
How do I prevent those fleas from becoming my fleas?!
Always make sure of the flea protocols all of these venues have in place. And also ask them how they respond when they find a flea in their venue – note, not fleas, but a single flea.
Their answer will tell you how seriously they take the problem, and how likely they are to ensure their venue remains flea-free, and not a flea-free-for-all.
#4 Out from under your roof
If these critters made your home theirs in the recent past, and your dog is an outdoors type, you may want to look at other places the parasites may have hidden eggs too. Your outdoor kennel is one. The boot of your car is another – in fact, check the seats and carpets while you’re at it.
If these spots go untreated, you’re probably in for a repeat experience!
How do I prevent this?
Every time you come back from an outdoor adventure, give your pooch a bowl of water, and while they’re lapping it up, check for fleas and ticks.
Flea poop shows up as little black specs on your dog’s skin or fur, and they’re a tell-tale sign your dog may have them. When a flea’s gotta go, a flea’s gotta go, right. And this evidence will help you identify the problem.
#5 Travelling to warmer climes
If you’re on holiday in areas with warmer climates than your own, be aware. In these warmer areas, fleas survive longer without a host. SO they may be lively, hungry, and ready to jump on anything that smells of warm blood.
How do I protect my dog?
Use a treatment before you leave, and put a tick and flea collar on your dog. This will keep them safe and make sure the fleas don’t become unwelcome immigrants in your home.
General treatment and prevention measures
Fleas are irritating, aggravating, awful little creatures. I’ll give you that. But an infestation is both treatable and preventable. You don’t have to burn your whole house down and start all over again.
Here are a couple of easy things you can do to stay in the flow while you’re dealing with the flea issue:
- If you think your dog has fleas, even if you see them, confirm by taking the dog to a vet and getting a diagnosis
- The vet will give you guidelines for ending the infestation and curing your pet. Follow them.
- Clean everything that has fleas, and everything you think may have fleas, eggs, and larvae
- Your vet will tell you about flea control measures – use them!
- Try to identify the source of the outbreak and effectively minimize your dog’s exposure
- Have a stringent vacuum regime (if you don’t have hardwood floors).
- Make sure to wash your home fabrics as often as possible
- And mow your yard. Tallgrass hides more than bears and wolves!
A parting shot
When we have kids, we don’t expect to go through life without being confronted with measles, and chickenpox, and mumps, and whooping cough, and infected tonsils, and, and, and.
Sure, we hope, but realistically we expect to have to deal with any or all of those at some point.
Dogs and fleas are the same, whether your dog has short hair and is as close to hypoallergenic, or not. Sure, we can hope, but then we should also expect the little jumpers to show up at some stage.
Make sure you and your pet stay healthy by taking all the precautions you possibly can, and when they do make an appearance, eradicate them as quickly and effectively as possible.
BTW – give your pooch a scratch behind the ears from me!