The life cycle of fleas can make them a pesky pest, especially in households with several pets.
When conditions aren’t favourable for breeding, flea eggs can wait a year to hatch into larvae. The flea’s life cycle can also speed up during the hot months of summer to allow the parasite to lay up to 50 eggs per day. With such control over its life cycle, it’s little wonder that the flea is one of the most frustrating parasites for dogs and their owners.
Fleas make our dogs miserable and uncomfortable, and can also make them very sick. It isn’t uncommon for a dog with a severe flea infestation to scratch badly enough to cause wounds. Continued scratching and the presence of the fleas makes these wounds susceptible to infection. When a dog is allergic to the flea’s saliva it can also suffer from flea allergy dermatitis. Fleas also carry tapeworms that can infest your dog as well as you.
Prevention methods should be used year-round to ensure our dogs stay in the best of health. But coming into summer we have to be especially careful.
As with most pests, the prevention of fleas in your home is a far better alternative to trying to get rid of them. There are several simple things you can do to make this prevention a bit easier.
Fleas thrive in dark, warm conditions, preferring to live in bedding, carpet, floorboards, long grass and under houses or decks and jump onto your dog to feed. If these areas have been treated properly, fleas will generally be more manageable in summer. This means closing off the space underneath your house so that your dog can’t get in there, regularly vacuuming and washing carpet and bedding, mopping floors and mowing lawns.
This general maintenance will help you control fleas by keeping the population low, but won’t prevent them entirely. You should also check and treat your pets and their environment.
If your dog is scratching regularly, the chances are that it has fleas. If an infestation is particularly bad, you might notice that people in the house have small, itchy bites around their ankles and feet. If your dog has fleas, you’ll also be able to see small black dots in its coat. These are actually fleas’ droppings, but when you pat, brush, or scratch your dog it will seem as though it has rolled around in dirt. The ‘dirt’ is easily detected with an inexpensive flea comb that will make regular checks simple and remind you to incorporate a flea check into your regular grooming routine.
Many high quality products specifically made for ridding dogs of fleas are available with several delivery methods. ‘Spot-on’ products coat the dog’s skin, killing existing fleas and preventing more from feeding. Flea shampoos are also available and simple to use in place of your regular dog shampoo. Your pet supplies store should also sell spray-on treatments. Generally, these are effective for a longer period than other external treatments, but you have to completely saturate your dog.
Alternatives to applying external insecticides include fitting your dog with a flea collar to repel fleas in its surroundings, or using oral treatments, which you can give your puppy from a young age.
You should make sure that your treatments break the life cycle of fleas. Talk to an expert at your local pet supplies store; they can help you with this. Whatever methods you choose, remember to continue treatment even after the summer tick and flea season is over to avoid the stress of dealing with a yearly pest explosion.