Flea Bites On Dogs & Puppies
A red, itchy bite on a dog is caused, in most cases, by a flea. Fleas are parasites that feed on the blood of your dog, in order to survive. A flea will consume up to 15 times its body weight in blood daily.
For a flea to thrive, there must be optimal environmental conditions. When the weather starts warm, it becomes the time of year when everyone—including their pets—lives outdoors. The synthesis of warmer weather, humidity and your dog’s blood are the perfect combinations for a flea to thrive and lay their eggs.
Fleas reproduce quickly and often. The average female flea will lay 25-50 eggs per day for the duration of her life span. For an adult flea, that is 50-100 days. Thus, if you see one flea, there are at least a hundred or more fleas on your pet.
How To Know If your Dog Has Fleas
The most obvious signs of a flea infestation on your pet is excessive licking or scratching. You should take note of where your dog is doing so. The fleas will most likely be gathering in those specific areas. The more fleas in those areas, the greater the chance you have of spotting them. The common areas that fleas will congregate will be: the tail area, belly, head and neck. There may be dark specks, also known as flea dirt (or flea feces). White specks, (flea eggs) in dog’s hair are also common. Flea dirt will likely be what is most noticeable in your dog’s hair, however.
Now that you know where to look, do you know what to look for?
What Do Flea Bites Look Like On Dogs?
Aside from the licking and scratching, there are other symptoms to take note of. Your dog could also be biting and chewing on their skin, legs, tail or feet. Chewing, biting and scratching, then leads to irritation of the dog’s skin. There may be reddish looking fur in the affected areas, as well as hot spots on the dogs head, chest, legs or hip from the excessive chewing. There is more information on what flea bites look like here.
Can Flea Bites Spread Disease To Dogs?
There are a few diseases that can be transmitted to your dog via a flea bite, or by ingestion of a flea while grooming.
Rickettsia typhi is the bacterial strain that causes Murine typhus. The bacterium is normally carried by rodents, such as rats. It is transmitted to your dog via an infected flea or its feces. M. Typhus usually does not show outward symptoms. A vet will not test for typhus, unless there is an outbreak of it in the human habitation of the dog. From then on, a simple blood test can determine if the dog has M. Typhus.
If typhus detected, the vet will treat the dog with a broad spectrum antibiotic, such as doxycycline. The medication can be taken orally or administered via intravenous injections. The duration of treatment can last 10 - 21 days. After which, routine preventative flea control should be set in motion.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Anemia is a reduction of red blood cells, due to prolonged blood loss. Anemia in dogs is most found in young dogs, that have a severe infestation problem. Signs of anemia in an affected animal will include a loss of energy, some weakness, and a loss of appetite. Other symptoms may include pale gums, a heart murmur and/or an increased heart rate. A veterinarian may check the animal for enlargement of the spleen.
Most urban dogs and cats eat prepared foods and don’t have access to any natural prey. Such animals can still acquire dog tapeworm by ingesting fleas during grooming. Dogs residing in suburban or rural areas or are hunters, have more of a possibility of getting a tapeworm, by eating raw meat or being exposed to the offal of farm or wild animals. Once ingested, the tapeworm will grow to an adult and affect your dog's health. Tapeworms are treatable.
Other Flea Bite Complications
When a flea bites a dog, it leaves behind some saliva. Some dogs are very sensitive to the saliva. This sensitivity is flea allergy dermatitis. It leads to extreme itchiness, irritated skin, hair loss and secondary skin infections. The irritated skin will look almost rash like. Do not mistake it for a rash.
A severe allergic reaction to a flea bite may also result in blisters on the skin. These blisters form around three days after the first initial flea bite. The fluid-filled blister will be translucent and surrounded by redness. Should the blistered skin die, it could take longer for the lesions to heal.
Secondary skin infections can manifest into oozing open lesions, skin abscesses, and pustules. These skin infections will heal in about four to six weeks. Yet, the skin may remain discolored for a longer length of time.
How To Treat Flea Bites On Dogs
Professional Exam and Prescription Treatments
Get a physical exam of your dog by his veterinarian. Your vet can help diagnose how severe the infestation is. Your vet may also prescribe an oral medication. Oral medications do not kill adult fleas. What they do is interrupt the life cycle of the flea, by preventing the eggs from hatching.
Any internal (oral) flea medications will be year-round in warmer climates. In cooler, northern climates a seasonal treatment of the medication will be prescribed. However, oral medications are not effective for animals that are allergic to flea saliva. The medication your vet provides for your beloved pet, should always be given with food. Ask your veterinarian for the best product to give to your dog.
Flea combs are specially designed for removing adult fleas, eggs and feces from your pet’s hair. This is a great way of removing fleas if your pet can’t tolerate chemicals on its skin, or if it cannot take medication.
Chemical Flea Treatments:
Pills are effective forms of treatment for fleas. You can find some over the counter tablets or get some from your vet. If you purchase the over the counter medications, make sure to read the package. You want to buy a package with an insect growth regulator.
Topical skin treatments such as spot on oils, and sprays should be applied directly to the skin. Apply these treatments monthly. It may take several hours and up to several days for the fleas to die. Follow the instructions on the package for proper usage and proper dosage. The product is for the specific size and weight of your animal.
Flea shampoos are very useful for killing adult fleas and removing feces and eggs still on your pet. Once thoroughly covered in the shampoo, let the shampoo sit. It can take up to ten minutes for the shampoo to kill the adult fleas. If your dog is one that does not tolerate bath time, then there other options, such as “leave-in” flea shampoos. It is important to follow the directions on the bottle for the shampoo to be effective.
A flea dip is another option that you may choose to treat your pet with. It is a concentrated chemical insecticide. The product is similar to shampoos. However, dips can be very toxic if you misuse them. That being said, in a well-ventilated area, dilute the product with water. It is very important that you dilute the product in water because of the strong concentration of the chemical. You can pour the liquid over the dog’s back or you can apply the product with a sponge. Make sure to soak the animal's fur with the diluted product. Unlike shampoos, you do not have to rinse the product. It is highly recommended that you put cotton balls in your pet’s ears during the application, to protect them. It is also recommended that you do not apply the product close to the animal's eyes. Flea dips are usually only used in the worst of flea infestations. Talk to your vet to determine if this option is right for your dog.
You may need more than one application of the flea bath to kill the adult fleas. After the bath, you will be able to comb the dead fleas from the dog's hair.
Flea sprays and powders will kill any remaining fleas and eggs that may be on your dog. Once, the fleas and eggs have been removed from the dog, you will need to keep up with the treatments. This will help to prevent any further infestation.
Getting a flea collar to use as a preventative measure is a good idea. Make sure to get a collar that suits the weight and size of your dog, in order for it to be truly effective.
Home Remedies For Itching
Just as you might use for your own itchy skin, you can use the typical same home remedies for itchy skin on your dog.
Topical anti-itch sprays need to be applied directly to the skin. Blend herbal teas and chamomile tea together and brew it in the refrigerator. Spray it on the affected area to relieve itching and inflammation.
Combine a 50/50 blend of apple cider vinegar and water into a spray bottle. Be careful with this around open sores, as it might sting. Spray on the inflamed itchy area of the dog’s skin.
Vitamin E oil or Coconut oil are natural anti-itching solutions. Break open a Vitamin E oil pill or use some pure coconut oil and gently rub on sensitive areas.
Epsom Salt Soak: A warm bath with Epsom salts can speed up healing of sores and bites.
Yogurt will fight any yeast infection and irritation with its natural probiotics. Give your dog plain, low-fat, no sugar added yogurt to eat. The natural probiotics will help your dog’s gastrointestinal system and with skin infections.
If all else fails, give your dog an antihistamine such as Benadryl. It should be given one milligram per one pound of the animal. If your animal is 25 pounds, you can give the animal one, 25 mg Benadryl pill. This should help with the itching from flea bites.
How To Prevent Your Dog From Getting Bitten By Fleas
Anywhere the dog spends time sleeping or laying needs to be treated. Treat beds—either human or dog—carpets, furniture, under shady trees and bushes or porches. It can take 3 - 8 weeks to remove an infestation. It is very important to know that you cannot miss a treatment. If you do miss a treatment, the flea infestation can occur again.
There are products on the market that you can buy to remove and prevent infestations on your dog. Prevention starts in the cold months of winter, even before the weather begins to warm. When looking for a product to kill fleas and their eggs, look for a product that has an insect growth regulator. IGRs will interrupt the life cycle of pupa and larvae, and eggs. IGRs will prevent adult fleas from laying eggs that will hatch, by rendering them infertile.
The drawback to IGRs is that they are not fast acting. This is why most flea products include another chemical to kill adult fleas. This combination makes it possible to use fewer chemicals in your home and on your pet.
For light infestations in your home, vacuuming every other day can eradicate 90% of the eggs. A vacuum with a rotating brush bar will destroy the eggs. Vacuuming will get rid of approximately 50% of the larvae and 60% of the pupa. After the first 3 weeks, you can dial back the vacuuming to 2 - 3 times a week. You can go back to normal vacuuming 5 months after the first initial treatment.
Vacuuming in conjunction with chemical carpet treatments will work. Vacuum the carpet first to raise the carpet fibers, then apply any of the chemical treatments that you are using. This will allow the chemicals to reach deeper into the carpet. If you are using a spray, do not vacuum again until the carpet fibers are completely dry. Once dry, vacuum again to pull up any dead insects.
It is worth noting that if you are using a canister vacuum, that you make sure to clean out the contents every time.
Flea Collar In the Vacuum:
Some swear by the flea collar in the vacuum. If you want to try this, please note that this technique will only work inside bagged vacuum cleaners. Get an inexpensive flea collar and place it in the vacuum cleaner bag. Vacuum the carpet, furniture anywhere the dog spends time. Any adult fleas that are sucked into the vacuum will die.
There are some products that you can spray in your home or yard to kill flea eggs and larvae. This kind of spray should contain Pyriproxyfen. Concentrated sprays that contain IGRs generally last 7 months indoors. They will last approximately 3 weeks outdoors.
In some instances using a chemical fogger to remove the infestation may be desired. However, take into consideration that a fogger will leave a residue in your home. Foggers are not an effective way to treat a flea infestation. The chemical fog may not reach all the places where fleas could be hiding. If you choose to use a fogger, read the instructions thoroughly before use.
Flea powders for the carpet have also been effective for infestations. You sprinkle the flea powder on the carpet or furniture and let it sit for 24 - 48 hours and then vacuum thoroughly. You may need more than one application to kill all the eggs and adult fleas.
Professional Pest Control:
For large-scale flea invasions, you might like to consider hiring an experienced pest control company to rid your home of these pests. They will likely advise you on follow-up treatments and techniques to ensure further infestations do not occur.
Check with your pet’s veterinarian to determine what is the right product for your pet. If you choose the wrong product you could do more harm than good and no one wants to harm their pet.
Flea collars and baths will help during the warmer months. Sprays and powders will also help prevent an infestation of fleas within the home. It is important to know how fleas survive.
Fleas cannot survive sub-zero temperatures and will die out in winter months. However, they can still survive in the right conditions. Conditions such as a heated home, or even a warm den/shelter of the host animal. This means that an infestation can still happen or continue. You should be vigilant. Make sure to treat your dog with flea sprays, or powders even during the winter months.
Continue to treat your carpets with flea powders and regular vacuuming. This treatment cycle should continue year round.
If you do this, flea bites on your dog will be the least of your worries, during the spring and summer months.
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