Fleas. Those pesky little parasitic bugs that irritate our pets and, as a result, us. They’re tiny, black/brown, flightless bugs that survive off of the blood of animals and humans alike. For those unfamiliar, fleas look like grains of black pepper. They just pack a little more bite, literally. To make matters worse, fleas are built for survival, as most parasites are. They have sharp heads and hard outer shells to optimize their bloodsucking and overall peskiness.
My skin is crawling just thinking about them. Regardless of how uncomfortable the thought of them are, though, the reality could be even worse. That’s why it is important to know as much as you can about fleas before they become a problem– as a preventative measure. That way, hopefully, they never become an actual issue that with which you have to deal.
Though I’ve never had to deal with them firsthand, from what I have read and heard and from what I can imagine, fleas cause A LOT of discomfort for their victims.
Symptoms and signs include, but are not limited to: white/pale gums, fur loss, and increased itchiness.
The pale gums are typical of bad cases, wherein the pet has lost extensive amounts of blood. According to one source, “Fleas can take in up to 15 times their body weight in blood.” With all that biting, it’s no wonder why fleas cause dogs to itch so much. When a dog has fleas and he starts scratching and biting himself, he is actually trying to alleviate the discomfort that the fleas are causing. This can be an issue because, depending on how bad the case is and how much the dog is scratching, fur loss and even infection are possibilities.
Other Things for which to Look
Now that you know what the critters look like you might be able to spot them on your pets. They do jump, as well, which may help you spot them. Another note, where there is one, there is never only one. Chances are if you see one flea on your dog, there are hundreds more.
You may also notice black specks left behind. This is where the black pepper comparison from earlier is really prevalent. Fleas can’t survive unless they’re on warm blooded beings; so, when your dog lays down somewhere some remittance of fleas may fall off but they aren’t necessarily living fleas. Furthering this, flea eggs are little white specks that may be mistaken for dandruff to a less observant owner.
It is also important to note that fleas do not tend tp thrive on humans, excepting severe situations. You may notice small, itchy bites with white-ish halos on your arms or legs from playing and cuddling with your dogs, but the chances of you actually having fleas live on your skin are slim. Fleas can carry diseases, though; so, be sure to treat your bites and your dog’s appropriately and consult a doctor.
Fleeing the Fleas
While all this may sound daunting and itchy, luckily it is a common enough issue that the market is flushed with products to help.
Treatment comes down to two essential parts. Firstly, you need to get rid of the pests. Secondly, you’ll need to prevent future infestations.
Always consult a vet before you buy and use any products on your dog. Different dogs may react differently to different ingredients. But, in terms of nondescript products to try, start with a flea comb. It will help pick up a good amount of the bugs and bring the smaller ones to the surface. Then, you will need and want to give your dog a hot bath using a flea shampoo or spray. The spray will essentially poison the fleas, and, usually, within twenty-four hours your dogs will be pest free. After the bath use an insecticide. Again, always consult your vet. After a flea infestation, your dog’s skin may be extra sensitive. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you’re using gentle, pet friendly products. Labels are often misleading and your vet is the best and probably one of the most qualified people to see through the fancy language and marketing techniques of harmful products.
There are also yard products that can help control the pests outside. Spraying around your property may help keep your dog from unwittingly taking things from the outside to inside on their fur.
Treating Your House
After an infestation is treated on your dogs, it is important to take care of any remains that may be lingering around your house. Vacuum extensively and wash any cushions are dog bedding that your dog may frequent. Natural furniture treatments are also available.
In a pinch, you may not have the products designed specifically for pest prevention. There are some alternatives that will work temporarily. Use dish soap to wash your pet if you do not have flea shampoo. It is gentle enough on your dog’s skin but abrasive enough to detach the fleas from your dog’s skin. Still vacuum and clean your house and use tea tree oil mixed with water in a spray bottle on cloth or carpets, until you can get actual insecticide.
Pests are pesky, but you don’t have to be afraid of them. Be sure to do your research and consult your appropriate doctors, but hopefully the above information will be helpful in an emergency.