Most dogs pick up an occasional flea. In some cases, a flea can lead to a serious flea infestation that drives your dog crazy. Left untreated, fleas can bite your dog and cause him great distress. They can even take over your home. A female flea can lay 50 eggs per day, and thousands of eggs in her lifetime, which can lead to untold numbers of fleas in your home. Fortunately, we have some excellent flea prevention and treatment products available today.
How do dogs get fleas?
Fleas can pass easily from dog to dog. If you take your dog to the dog park where other dogs who have fleas have played, it’s likely that your dog will pick up fleas there, for example. If there are dogs with fleas in your vet’s waiting room, your dog can pick up fleas there. Fleas can jump from dog to dog or, if they’re in the floor, they can easily hop on your dog and hitch a ride back to your house.
Once there are fleas on your dog, the dog will scratch and chew them when he can. Fleas that are swallowed form part of the tapeworm lifecycle. Once digested, the flea will release a young tapeworm in your dog which will feed in your dog’s small intestine. As it grows it will break off in tiny segments that look like grains of rice and be passed in your dog’s feces. You can see them in your dog’s poop. If a dog eats or bothers another dog’s poop that contains these tapeworm segments, he will start the tapeworm cycle in his own intestines. So, keep your dog away from the poop of other animals.
It’s also important to worm your dog regularly. If you give your dog regular heartworm preventive it probably contains a wormer for tapeworms. Ask your vet if you’re not sure whether your dog’s heartworm contains a wormer. Most vets will perform a fecal exam on your dog when he has a check-up so they can see if he has worms of any kind and if he needs to be wormed.
The “old” days
Not too long ago, dogs and their owners really had to suffer during flea season, especially if they lived in warm, humid areas where fleas were rampant. Fleas could be a nuisance year-round in some places. Treatments included flea sprays, flea powders, flea shampoos, and dips. All of these products were and still are effective but they are not always convenient to use. In addition, they sometimes have to be reapplied frequently if you have lots of fleas.
Breakthroughs in flea control
In the 1990s companies began offering some products that were represented major breakthroughs in flea control. There were oral products that you could give your dog which would interrupt the flea’s life cycle after the flea bit your dog. This was a major step forward, though the flea had to bite your dog for it to be effective. It had to be used with a good flea spray to kill the fleas that were on your dog. However, it would prevent fleas from laying eggs and keep new fleas from hatching.
Soon, however, companies offered topical flea products that could be squeezed between a dog’s shoulder blades or along the dog’s back. These products were a god-send for many dogs and their owners. The liquid product was absorbed by the dog’s skin and kept fleas away from your dog for a month or longer. In addition, you could buy a version of the products that also killed ticks for a month. These products took the pet industry by storm and they are still the leaders in flea prevention today. In addition to killing the fleas that are on your dog within a few hours, the products contain an insect growth regulator which will prevent fleas from laying and hatching viable eggs.
Today there are also several oral products available to get rid of fleas. One product can be given to your dog orally and will kill all the fleas on your dog within about four hours. This product is particularly good for dogs with heavy flea infestations and is often used by animal shelters. However, it must be given daily if it is to continue to be effective.
Other flea products today have been combined with heartworm medication so you can give your dog all of his preventive medication at one time.
If you have any questions you should talk to your veterinarian about which flea and tick preventive is recommended for your area. Some products are only available from veterinarians but others can be purchased online or in pet stores.
There are several different kinds of ticks which can attach themselves to dogs in the United States and Canada and they carry a number of diseases which can cause serious problems for dogs such as Lyme disease. The northeast (Atlantic) coast, the upper midwest, and parts of the western U.S. are particularly bad for ticks, but they can be found in most places, especially near wooded areas. You may even find them in your backyard under leaves and brush. It is often a good idea to use a flea product for your dog that also contains a tick preventive.
Prevention of fleas and ticks is easier today than it has ever been. Find out which products are most effective in your area and which ones are most suitable for your dog. There is no reason why dogs have to suffer from these pests any more.