When dog lovers are asked what they dread most about the summer months, the topic that comes up most is fleas! Fleas are tiny little parasites, but they can lead to serious health problems if not treated. This week, Dr James Ross discusses what to look for and the best ways to prevent fleas on dogs.
What are the symptoms of fleas?
You will likely notice excessive licking, unexpected movements, and scratching. Surprisingly, it’s the flea’s saliva that is particularly irritating, not just the bites.
You may see fleas running on your pet’s stomach or by using a flea comb at the base of the tail. Or you may see flea dirt where he has lain. You can test these black “crumbs” by putting them on a damp tissue: if they turn reddish-brown, that is your dog’s dried blood!
Secondary problems such as hair loss, miliary dermatitis and behavioural issues may also arise. Because fleas are a host to tapeworm, if your dogs have fleas, they probably have tapeworm too. Tapeworm can cause restlessness and diarrhoea in children. So give your dog an intestinal worming tablet if you see scooting or suspect worms.
Where did the fleas come from?
Any visiting pet or wandering cat can drop hundreds of eggs at your house or in your garden. Fleas like shady areas like under the deck so keep these areas cleared of debris.
Another common area for infestations is in the grass at the local park. Remember, fleas do not jump from dog to dog, they jump onto your dog directly from the environment.
Why are fleas so hard to get rid of?
The flea has a complex and cleverly adapted life cycle which can resist treatments at various stages. It is also incredibly fast. In the right conditions, fleas can go from being an egg to being an egg layer in a week! One female flea on your dog can lay 50 tiny (0.5mm) white eggs in a day! If there are 10 fleas, that’s 15,000 eggs in a month!
If you end up with flea eggs in the house, they can hatch up to 6 months later, so regular prevention is the key.
What should we do to prevent fleas?
- Use a monthly topspot – Treat every animal in the house YEAR ROUND with a monthly topspot, (buy a vet brand, not a supermarket brand).
- Be extra cautious in summer – Remember to increase the dose of your monthly topspot to once a fortnight during summer making sure it covers for ticks as well as fleas.
- Keep your pup dry – If your dog is a swimmer, make sure you use a waterproof treatment or keep the dog dry for two days each side of a topspot squirt.
- Use a fast-acting tablet – If you still see live fleas it is because the topical treatment can’t keep up with the number of them! In this case, use an additional fast-acting monthly Comfortis® tablet with food.
- Frequently vacuum carpeting, rugs and furniture or any other places your pet is around, including your car. This will clean up as many immature fleas as possible. Dump bags or vacuum canisters immediately.
- Wash all bedding regularly in hot water including any blankets. Hang them in direct sunlight if possible. Don’t forget your own bedding too!
Cheers for now from all of us at The Barracks Vet Surgery
Dr James Ross BVSc (Hons) MRCVS is the principal veterinarian at The Barracks Vet Surgery in Mosman providing a unique, high quality veterinary experience for the pets and owners of Mosman, Cremorne, Neutral Bay & the surrounding suburbs of the Lower North Shore.
(02) 9969 1100 2A Best Avenue MOSMAN NSW 2088