If your dog has fleas you’ll need to get him treated promptly as it will be uncomfortable for him, could lead to anaemia and flees can also transmit parasites such as tapeworm.
You can buy flea treatments from reputable pet retailers, or you can visit your vet. Flea treatments usually contain insecticide, and the strength of treatment you buy will vary depending on your dog’s weight.
It's important you buy the right strength of treatment to avoid your pet becoming ill, or the treatment not working.
The treatment should be applied directly to your dog's skin, between his shoulder blades. It is secreted through your dog’s hair follicles and any fleas that come into contact with your dog’s skin or hair will eventually die.
Different flea treatments may work differently and may contain different ingredients. For example (S)-methoprene and fipronil, are both ingredients found in Frontline plus. These ingredients are safe for both dogs and cats.
However, permethrin, found in other dog treatments, is highly toxic to cats. It’s based on pyrethrin, found in chrysanthemums.
Flea treatments such as Frontline will need to be applied monthly to your dog, although this frequency may vary depending on the treatment you choose. Never be tempted to apply more frequently than stated on the packaging.
Some treatments can also treat ticks at the same time.
If your dog has fleas, you should also get him treated for worms at the same time as flea larvae can also contain the tapeworm parasite. If your dog eats the flea while grooming himself, he may become infected.
To understand how your treatment works, you should always do your research, or speak to your vet.
Where do I check for fleas on my dog?
You can check your dog for fleas by checking under his arm pits and around his groin area. These tend to be warm, protected areas that attract fleas.
You should also look for signs of flea dirt, which is the poop, on your dog’s skin. Seen as black or dark brown specs, it will turn a reddish brown if you rub it with a moist cloth.
Your dog may also show signs of scratching around his ears, base of tail, groin area and belly.
Excessive hair loss and skin redness can also be a sign of flea allergy dermatitis, where your dog has an allergy to the antigens in the flea’s saliva.
It can be hard to see fleas on your dog as they only stay on your pet while they’re feeding. They need blood in order to reproduce.
Another way to find fleas, larvae or droppings is by standing your dog on a white surface or towel and combing through his hair with a fine toothcomb. They should either get caught in the comb or drop to the floor.
Can dog fleas live on humans?
Although fleas prefer dogs and cats, they will also bite humans. So you may also find yourself a chosen meal.
How do dogs get fleas?
Fleas can come from other animals, the outside environment, boarding kennels, or even you, if you’ve been exposed to them.
They’ll tend to hide in shadier areas, such as long grass, animal nests and dog houses. Anywhere where the conditions are suitable, and where other animals may have been.
The flea lifecycle
Once a flea has had its meal of blood, it will lay its eggs, which will hatch into larvae after a few days. These larvae will feed on flea waste products – digested blood, and dirt in the environment.
Next the larvae will spin themselves a cocoon, in which it will live. They can take weeks even months to emerge from this stage. Once emerged, they will be an adult flea. And the lifecycle begins again.
The temperature and humidity in their environment must be perfect in order for them to move through this process swiftly. The warmer it is, the quicker they’ll become adult, and the cooler it is, the slower the process.
I have treated my dog for fleas but he's still itching
If your dog is still itching, this could be occurring for a number of reasons.
1. Once you’ve applied a flea product such as Frontline, the fleas will move to the top of your dogs coat. This movement could make your dog feel more itchy.
It can also take a while for all the fleas to die. The fleas on your dogs coat can start to die after around 4 hours, according to a study conducted by Frontline. A separate study conducted showed that 100% of fleas had died after 12 hours.
You should remember that unhatched eggs and pupae will remain on your dog, and around the house, so ridding your pet and home completely of fleas can take longer.
2. Your dog could also be itching because you’ve given your dog the incorrect dose of flea treatment, and it's therefore not working. Always weigh your dog carefully, and buy the relevant strength product. Don’t be tempted to buy a strength that is too strong for your dog.
3. If you’ve got more than one dog, you’ll need to ensure they’re all treated for fleas. Even if your other dogs aren’t showing symptoms, they could still pick up stray flea eggs and larvae in the home and become infected.
Untreated pets will continue the flea lifecycle, and you’ll struggle to eliminate the flea infestation.
4. Continued itching could also be caused by an allergy to the flea bite. A flea’s saliva can contain antigens, which are normally harmless. However, in a dog with flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), these can irritate your dog. Even one bite can cause hours of biting.
Your dog can suffer with hair loss and inflamed skin, and this will occur around the base of his tail, and extend down his legs.
If your dog has FAD he may need a corticosteroid treatment or cortisone injections prescribed by your vet to relieve the uncomfortable symptoms. Additionally, the excessive scratching could lead to infection, so a course of antibiotics may be required.
The best prevention for FAD is appropriate flea control treatment, administered throughout flea season.
Can cat fleas live on dogs?
Yes, cat fleas can live on dogs. Even though there are two species Ctenocephalides canis that live on dogs, and Ctenocephalides felis that lives on cats, both types will nibble on dogs. Cat fleas are even more versatile and will bite over 50 species of animal.
Can fleas make a dog vomit?
Fleas may not make your dog vomit, but if your dog has developed a tapeworm infection as a result of eating infected fleas, they may well have excessive diarrhoea or constipation.
Why can’t I get rid of dog fleas?
Fleas can live for up to one year and can lay around 50 eggs a day. So even if you manage to kill the fleas, the subsequent eggs and larvae will still be around the house. Infact, this is estimated to be around 95% of the infestation, with only 5% of it being on your dog.
You should vacuum the house and any upholstery thoroughly, ensuring you clean all the areas your dog visits. Don’t forget to also include your car! You’ll need to repeat this regularly, to ensure that you catch any missed eggs, fleas or larvae.
Your dog’s bed should be washed, at around 60 degrees centigrade to kill any fleas and any removable coverings in the home. Including sofa and cushion coverings should also be washed.
Frontline advise you can also spray an insect growth regulator, as this will kill fleas and larvae.
Sea water and dog fleas
Salt can dehydrate fleas, and it's thought a swim in the sea or a salty bath can kill the fleas on your dog. However, salt can also cause irritation and dryness on your dog’s skin. So don't overdo it.
Also, it’s thought breeds with a double coat, such as Husky, Akita and Shiba Inu are more likely to develop skin irritation after swimming in the sea, than others. This is because the water gets trapped inside the fur and can cause irritation.
Breeds that can handle swimming in the sea fairly well include Labrador and Chesapeake Retrievers, Portuguese Water dogs and Irish Water spaniels.
Always remember to rinse your dog well with fresh water after sea swimming, to remove any salt particles.
It’s also said that salt can be sprinkled across your carpet to dehydrate fleas, and can help kill the fleas.
Finally, if your dog gets fleas, try not to panic. Just treat your pet and your home, step by step, and you should soon be flea free.
And always try to use flea treatments throughout the warmer months, to prevent your pet from getting fleas in the first place.