Fleas are a very common parasite of dogs and they can make life miserable for your canine companion. These little insects feed on his blood and their bite will make him itchy. They also are the intermediate host for the common tapeworm, so if your dog has fleas, he’s very likely to have tapeworms too. A heavy tapeworm burden can lead to weight loss, diarrhoea and general ill thrift.
Some dogs suffer more serious conditions if they have a lot of fleas on their skin including:
Flea allergy. If your dog has a flea allergy, he’ll suffer an extreme reaction to a flea bite and the result is extremely itchy inflamed skin, particularly on the rump and down the hind legs. Constant scratching traumatises the skin, which leads to a painful secondary bacterial infection. Over time, his skin will become dark, thickened and hairless.
Tooth damage. Hair is very abrasive and constant chewing on itchy skin results in your dog’s hair wearing down his incisors. This can eventually cause tooth pain.
Anaemia. A large number of fleas will drink sufficient blood to make your dog anaemic. This means he has fewer red blood cells than usual, which will interfere with his blood’s ability to carry oxygen to other parts of his body. This can be very serious; dogs have died of flea anaemia!
Because of the effects of fleas on dogs, it’s important that your pet is treated regularly to keep them under control. This should continue year round – contrary to popular belief, fleas are not just a summer problem. If you ease up on managing them over the winter months, you’ll find you’ll have an even greater problem when the weather warms up.
There are several options for keeping fleas under control.
Firstly, you need to treat your dog. Don’t be tempted to rely on bathing alone to kill fleas; once you rinse off that lather, there is no residual effect and fleas are quick to jump right back on your dog.
Topical spot-on products should be applied to his skin every month. Follow the directions carefully, especially with respect to how soon they should be used after a bath.
Oral tablets are excellent insecticides. Be sure to note their coverage and efficiency.
It’s also very important that you also treat fleas in the environment. The intermediate stages of the flea lifecycle – the egg, larvae and pupae – are found on the ground, on your furniture and in your carpet, and in your dog’s bedding. Unless you control these life stages, you’ll never get your flea problem under control. You can do this by using appropriate sprays and foggers. Washing your dog’s bed and vacuuming your home regularly are also important steps in controlling your flea population.
Fleas at the very least make your dog itchy and if he has a heavy burden, the resultant flea anaemia may be fatal. Although it does take time and effort to keep them in check, it’s worth it to keep your much loved canine family member in the best of health.