There are thousands of species of flea but only one, Ctenocephalides felis, affects dogs and cats. Fleas have long been a thorn in the side of dogs and their owners.
Conditions Caused by Flea Infestation in Dogs
Fleas are more than just a nuisance; they can cause serious health problems in dogs, such as the following:
- Anemia can be caused by severe flea infestation. Anemia is a condition where there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to all of the body’s tissues. It can result in death, especially in very small, young, or debilitated dogs.
- Flea allergy dermatitis is a skin condition that occurs when a dog is allergic to flea saliva. This condition causes intense scratching and can lead to hair loss and skin infections.
- Tapeworm infection with dipylidium caninum can be transmitted to dogs when they ingest fleas during self-grooming. While not harmful to the dog in most cases, it is not a pleasant condition for owners, as tapeworm segments will drop out of the dog’s rectum onto his bedding or the floor-covering.
Flea Life Cycle
In order to control flea infestations, it’s important to understand the flea life cycle:
- Eggs: Eggs are laid on the dog by adult fleas. They fall off into the environment, where they incubate in the carpet, the pet’s bedding, your bedding, the furniture, or the yard.
- Larvae: The flea eggs hatch to reveal small, crawling larvae. The food source for the larvae is the stool of adult fleas, which has also fallen off of the dog. The larvae go through three molts, then they spin a cocoon and become pupae.
- Pupae: Inside the cocoon, the pupae develop into adult fleas. At this stage, they are very hard to kill. Pupae can stay dormant inside the cocoon for up to a year. They do not emerge until they sense a host nearby that can serve as a food source. They perceive this through vibrations, sound, light, and carbon dioxide variations.
- Adult fleas: Adult fleas aggressively search for a host in order to take their first blood meal. Once she has fed, the female flea will begin to lay eggs within two days, and she will lay eggs until she dies. Fleas can live for four to six weeks, but they are often groomed off by the host dog before that.
Flea Control Products for Dogs
There are a wide variety of flea control products for dogs. Some are over-the-counter and some are prescription products. Following are the most common prescription products and their actions:
When choosing over-the-counter flea products, it is critical that you read the label carefully. Choose the appropriate product for your dog’s weight and age. There are many products that are highly toxic to cats. These can be dangerous even to cats living in a home with a dog treated with them.
Here are some Popular brands of flea preventative products:
Advantage®II: This spot-on product.
K9 Advantix®II is a spot-on product.
Seresto is a flea and tick collar.
Frontline® Plus is a spot-on product.
Revolution® is a spot-on product.
Comfortis® is a oral tablet.
This is not an exhaustive list of products.
Prevention is the best medicine, but if you already have a flea infestation in your home, these products can help you control and eliminate it. You may also need to use a product that treats your home and/or your yard. Your veterinarian can help you determine the product or product combination that will help you get rid of the fleas the fastest. It’s important to stick with the treatment. It may take several months to break the flea life cycle, and you may continue to see some fleas during that time.