May 5, 2010

Fleas - What You Need to Know and Do!


Fleas are small, flat, wingless, external parasites that feed off the blood of your adult dog or puppy.  Fleas are not only an annoying problem for dogs and owners, they also cause diseases such as allergies, anemia and tapeworms.  Fleas can bee seen crawling on your dogs skin (particularly the belly) or jumping on your dogs coat. 


Dogs usually get fleas from other dogs that have them or from being in a flea infested environment such as the backyard, a park or even inside a house.
If your dog or puppy has fleas, you will generally notice the following:

  • Itching and scratching
  • Biting at the hindquarters
  • Hair loss (most commonly seen behind the ears, down the back , back legs, tail and rump).
  • Red, scaly, flaky skin .
  • If your dog is infested with fleas, you will see the fleas crawling and jumping on the body.  Fleas look like tiny pieces of black rice or black specs.
  • It is common to see flea dirt on the tail and in the area just above the tail on the hind quarters. Flea dirt will look like black specs on the skin.  Think of dandruff, only black.


Fleas are disease carriers and can cause a host of health problems for your dog or puppy.  Most health issues caused by fleas stem from a heavy infestation; however, there are situations where just a few fleas can lead to serious health problems. 

The following are problems most commonly seen with fleas:

Flea Allergy Dermatitis - A condition caused from a severe allergy to the flea saliva on the skin of your dog.  This reaction causes intense scratching and chewing and leads to hair loss and skin infections.

Tapeworms – Your dog or puppy can become infected with this parasite when they ingest a flea carrying tapeworm eggs. 

Anemia - A condition most commonly seen in young puppies that are infested with fleas.  Adult dogs are also capable of contracting anemia from being overloaded with fleas.

Hot Spot - If your dog or puppy is highly allergic to flea saliva, just one or two flea bites will irritate an area on the body causing your dog to scratch and chew at the area resulting in an infection and/or a hot spot.


The most common treatments for fleas include:
Flea bath - Bathing the dog using a special shampoo designed to kill the fleas (available at most department or pet stores).

Flea comb - This comb, also available at most department and/or pet stores, is used to "pick up” fleas on your dog, however, this method is only effective if the flea population is very small.

Treatment of house and yard - You can have your yard sprayed to kill and prevent fleas.  Most pest control companies offer this service or you can spray the area yourself with a specialty spray available at most hardware/feed and/or department stores.  When treating the area yourself, it is important to read the cautions on the label and follow the instructions closely.


PREVENTION is the best treatment for fleas.

Your veterinarian probably offers a wide selection of monthly preventives, in either topical or pill form.  Both treatments are administered monthly.  These treatments prevent fleas from living on your dog and both products are effective.  Consult your veterinarian for more specific information.

NOTE: Your veterinarian has probably already recommended a preventive monthly flea and tick product in your dogs wellness health program.More information at
PetsMD recommends the following products to aid in flea prevention and treatment:
Advantage for dogs and puppiesK9 advantixBio spot yard and garden spray

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