Flea Facts

All you wanted to know about fleas and more

With the emergence of spring flowers, budding trees and green lawns, thoughts automatically turn to those parasites that wreak havoc with our dogs. One parasite which is especially troublesome not only to the dog, but the environment in which he lives, is the flea. The "American Kennel Club Dog Care and Training" book contains some valuable information about fleas and how to get rid of them.

What are fleas?

Fleas are tiny wingless insects that feed on dogs, among other animals. Flea bites make some dogs, that are allergic to flea saliva, so miserable that they bite and scratch themselves raw. Other dogs do not seem to respond to flea bites with the same intensity. If you see evidence of fleas on your dog, it is essential to eradicate them as quickly as possible, before the population grows. Hungry fleas sometimes bite humans too, leaving small, red, itchy bumps most commonly observed on the wrists and ankles.

How can you tell if your dog has fleas?

You may actually see the dark fleas, about the size of sesame seeds, scurrying about on the skin. Their favorite spots include the base of the ears and the rump. Look closely to sparsely haired places like the groin for telltale signs. A more accurate way to diagnose fleas, however, when live ones aren't observed, is to part the fur in several places and look for tiny black specks about the size of poppy seeds. These specks are flea feces, composed of digested blood. If you're not sure whether you're looking at "flea dirt" or just plain dirt, place it on a damp piece of white tissue. After a minute or so, a small red spot or halo will become apparent if it's flea feces, since the blood re-hydrates and diffuses into the tissue.

Getting Rid of Fleas: On your dog, in your home and in your environment

On your dog

The flea comb is a handy item which helps you determine if your dog has fleas. The teeth are set very close together and snare flea evidence when the comb is drawn through the dog's coat. If you trap a flea, crush it immediately. Though wingless, fleas can jump so fast and so far that they may disappear the second you spot them.

Getting rid of fleas entails killing them on your dog as well in the environment. For this, you may need an armament of products.

There are many products on the market today that help eradicate fleas—some contain poisons and other are homeopathic in nature. Dog owners should always be aware of the fact that they need to be constantly vigilant of their animals' health and well-being when any form of medical treatment is being administered for whatever reason.

It is necessary to treat not only a dog for fleas, but also the environment in which it lives. If sprays or flea bombs are used, care should be taken to remove all food, exposed dishes, utensils, and housewares from the area being sprayed or bombed. Humans and animals should not be exposed to the chemicals and you should follow the instructions listed with the spray or bomb.

In your home

As for your home, flea bombs set off in each room or living area are an effective way to kill fleas. Premises sprays can also be applied throughout the house. Thorough vacuuming before home treatment is recommended; discard the vacuum bag once this job is finished. It is important to treat all areas where the dog has traveled, since flea eggs may be present on the floor or furniture. A yard or kennel spray may be used to kill outside fleas.

In your environment

You must understand that just killing fleas on your dog is not enough to prevent the infestation from repeating itself. The environment must also be treated, as well as any other dogs or cats that live in the household. Also, flea eggs may survive several weeks after live adults have been eliminated. Repeat treatments may be necessary.

Fortunately, in many parts of the United States , freezing weather goes a long way toward putting an end to outside fleas. In temperate areas, the flea battle may rage year-round. Sometimes it is best to consult a professional exterminator if the infestation in your house is severe.

The above is an excerpt from the American Kennel Club Dog Care and Training Book. Order Now!