Though we like to think of ourselves as pretty seasoned when it comes to doggy ailments and issues, nothing makes our skin crawl like the thought of fleas! Fortunately, we had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Lynn Buzhardt, who's leading flea education on behalf of Novartis Animal Health/Sentinel's new flea prevention program.
What are the tell-tale signs that my dog has fleas?
There are several ways to tell your dog has fleas. You may actually see an adult flea on your dog’s coat, especially if your dog has light-colored or short fur. Fleas tend to stay close to the skin and scurry around a lot. Adult fleas are often found over the lower back, around the face and under the belly.
If you don’t spy an adult flea, however, it doesn’t mean your dog is flea-free. You may find evidence elsewhere that fleas have invaded. Fleas consume your pet’s blood for a meal, and eliminate the digested blood (i.e., flea poop) on the coat. Digested blood will appear as tiny black specks. To confirm that these specks are dried blood, place a few on a damp paper towel. When moistened, the dried blood will turn from black to brownish-red.
In addition to suffering itchy discomfort, some pets can become allergic to flea saliva and develop flea allergy dermatitis, the most common skin disease in dogs. In severe cases, a pet may even become anemic from blood loss. Some fleas may also carry tapeworm eggs that can infect a pet if accidentally swallowed by the pet while grooming itself.
If my dog has a flea bite, does this mean we've got an infestation?
Although one flea bite does not always mean you have a flea infestation, remember that adult fleas reproduce rapidly, so an infestation may not be far off. An adult female flea can lay up to 2,000 eggs during her lifetime. (Barzkilla Note: EWWW!) As soon as adult fleas take a blood meal from your pet, they are ready to reproduce. If there are adult fleas on your dog, you may safely assume that you have a potential infestation in your home. By the time you see one flea, you could have already spent months living with an infestation of eggs and maggot-like larvae. Visible adult fleas represent only 5 percent of the flea population. The other 95 percent hide in your home in the form of eggs, maggot-like larvae and pupae. Eggs and larvae are usually found in areas where the dog rests, such as your sofa, bed or rugs. To prevent flea infestations, fleas must be controlled in the home as well as on the dog.
What's the best way to get rid of fleas?
The best way to rid your home of fleas is to use a dual approach. Contact a professional exterminator about treating the premises. In-home extermination should focus on upholstered furniture, rugs and carpeting. Vacuum all floors prior to home treatment and check with your professional exterminator to see when it is best to vacuum following the treatment. If your pet sleeps in your bed, wash sheets and pillowcases in hot water and regular laundry detergent. Vacuum the mattress and consider buying new pillows.
Be sure to treat the dog’s environment outside as well. Remove underbrush from trees and rake leaves where fleas and ticks lurk. When spraying the yard for fleas, concentrate on the areas where your pet spends most of his time. Eggs and larvae will likely be shed in the spots where he lies down.
Speak to your veterinarian about treating your pet. Your pet’s doctor will prescribe medications to kill the adult fleas and to break the flea’s life cycle, thus preventing future generations of fleas. Use an insect growth regulator (IGR) such as SENTINEL® (milbemycin oxime/lufenuron) Flavor Tabs® to stop future stages of the flea life cycle. Be sure to read the label carefully before administering.
Can my dog get fleas all year round?
Waiting too long to use preventive treatments before flea and tick season comes around could be dangerous for your dog. Fleas are very hardy parasites and can survive climate extremes. While they prefer warm, humid environments, they can endure dry, hot summers and cold, wet winters. Fleas can go 100 days without a meal. A monthly tablet like SENTINEL Flavor Tabs combines flea prevention with heartworm and internal parasite protection, offering an easy way to keep your pet and home safe year-round.
To learn more about flea control and to locate a veterinarian near you, visit www.sentinelpet.com. Dogs should be tested for heartworm prior to use. In a small percentage of treated dogs, digestive, neurologic and skin side effects may occur. For full product information, go to www.sentinelpet.com.
We hope you find all of this info and advice helpful-- we sure did! While prevention is definitely the way to go, being able to address one of our phobias with an expert did make us feel more prepared in case we ever have to fight a flea infestation. Thanks Dr. Buzhardt!