It’s an itchy time of year for our furry friends. With flowers blooming and trees budding, your dog may be suffering from seasonal allergies. Their skin may also be dry and irritated from the few bouts of colder springtime weather. While these factors may cause discomfort to your dog, if you notice excessive scratching or chewing, it’s important to check your dog for fleas. When untreated, fleas can pose real dangers to your dog’s health.

On the surface-level, fleas drive your dog crazy. They multiply quickly and bite frequently, causing itchy bumps that can resemble hives and welts. Your dog will become obsessive and incessant to try to find relief from the itchiness, which can lead to infected hot spots and hairless patches where the lick, bite and gnaw their coat. Internally, your dog’s fleas can be causing even more severe health issues. Fleas are blood-sucking parasites, and an infestation can lead to excessive blood loss and may lead to anemia. Fleas are also the most common culprit of canine tapeworm. By swallowing an infected flea (possibly while grooming themselves to relieve an itch) an adult tapeworm can grow inside your dog’s intestines.

The best way to check for fleas on your dog is to look for flea dirt (aka flea feces) in your dog’s coat. Briskly comb or rub a section of your dog’s back while your dog is sitting or lying on a white sheet of paper. If your dog has fleas, black flecks of “dirt” will fall onto the paper. Transfer the black flecks to a damp piece of paper, and in a short time they will appear red or rust-color – the result of your dog’s blood passed in the flea’s waste matter.

Yep… My Dog Has Fleas

  1. Once you recognize the signs of fleas on your dog, contact your veterinarian right away to find the right treatment plan. Your vet will examine and evaluate your dog for any flea-related health issues and will recommend a specific treatment plan for your dog. Your vet will also provide treatment for the other pets in your household that may have been exposed to fleas. Various treatment methods include shampoos, sprays, powders, and topical medication applied to your dog’s neck. Make sure you mention all the products you regularly use on your pet or in your home because certain treatments combined can be toxic to your pet.
  2. Next, treat your home to kill anywhere the fleas may have burrowed or laid eggs. Killing the fleas on your dog is just one part of the problem. Fully ridding your home of fleas can take up to 3 to 4 months (the time it takes for fleas to go through all of its life stages). Here are a few steps to take to eradicate fleas in your home:
  • Start by washing all of your bedding (including your dogs) in hot, soapy water and dry in a hot dryer. Check what material your dog’s bed is made of – some synthetic beds may melt in the dryer in which case it may be easier to simply replace the bed. Wash your dog’s bedding at least once a week to prevent fleas from returning.
  • Clean your floors, including vacuuming and washing your carpets, rugs, hardwood floors, linoleum, and tiled floors. Vacuum your upholstery using its brush attachment and wash your cushions’ removable covers if you’re able to. Be sure to throw away the vacuum bag or dump your vacuum’s waste receptacle into a sealable plastic bag and dispose of it in an outdoor trash can.
  • Treat your yard with an insect-controlling spray, pellet, or non-toxic treatment. Mow your grass once a week to keep it short which helps prevent fleas from jumping onto your dog when it spends time outdoors.
  • If you continue to find evidence of fleas in your home, consider calling a local exterminator or opt for a do-it-yourself fog kit or spray.
  1. Continue to treat your dog (and other household pets) with flea and tick preventative to keep them protected year-round! Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to fleas! There are many preventative oral “treats,” collars and topical treatments that repel and kill adult fleas and the larvae before they hatch. Consult your veterinarian for your pet’s best preventative options. Your vet will advise the best option for your dog based on their lifestyle, medical history, and any breed predispositions to adverse effects.

This month, save 10% on flea and tick preventative! Download the rebate here and stop by your preferred Animal Health Center location to purchase yours throughout the month of May!