Dog Flea Protection
Stop the itch!
Fleas are tiny parasites that love to feed on your dog’s blood – or the blood of other animals, including humans! The bite usually causes your pet to scratch, and it can lead to irritation and allergies. If fleas become established on your dog, it can lead to more serious health problems and you could end up with an infestation in your house. Read more about common pet parasites Book an appointment
More about fleas and your dog
Fleas are small, wingless insects that, despite their inability to fly, can travel huge distances by jumping. To survive fleas must feast on warm blood, and they aren’t fussy – most household pets can be bitten by fleas, and sadly humans are also at risk too. There are two common species of flea, cat fleas and dog fleas. Surprisingly, despite this naming, both of these species can bite and live on your pets, so in reality it doesn’t matter which species of flea is in your home.
Fleas reproduce really quickly, and live most of their life off their animal hosts. They actually reproduce much like butterflies, with larvae instead of caterpillars. As so much of the lifecycle happens off your pet controlling an infestation of fleas can be a difficult job.
- She must have fed to lay (an adult flea that cannot find food will die before laying). She can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime! The eggs are small and white, and while they are often laid on the host, they aren't attached in any way. This means as your pet moves around your home the eggs will slide off, and get buried into carpet fibres, cracks in the floor, soft furnishings and pet bedding. It is estimated that if you have fleas in your home, half of the population will currently be in egg form.
- Eggs will hatch into flea larvae within twelve days. These larvae are like the caterpillar stage of butterflies completely different to the adults. Larvae do not feed on blood, and instead feed on organic debris in the home. They don't like the light, so tend to burrow deeper into wherever they are. This means you rarely see them, although they actually make up about 35% of the flea population in your home.
- After approximately 1-3 weeks, larvae will spin themselves a cocoon and start to change into adult fleas. The developing larvae inside are now called pupae. Approximately 10% of the flea population in your home at any time will be pupae.
- It is the pupae that make fleas so difficult to eradicate. In favourable conditions, pupae will hatch into adult fleas within days to weeks, but in unfavourable conditions pupae can remain dormant in their cocoons for months! They are also sticky, so are hard to remove with light vacuuming or sweeping.
- When conditions are right an adult flea will emerge. They must locate a new host quickly, and feed, in order to start the life cycle again and lay their eggs.
The best way to keep fleas at bay is to treat your dog regularly with a good quality flea treatment. There are a number of different options, but not all of them may be suitable for your dog, so you should check with a Vets4Pets' vet as we will be able to give you the most appropriate advice for your pet. Although the summer is the most common time to see fleas, vets also see peaks in flea populations in winter, when central heating tends to warm up houses. This means that flea protection should be given year round, not just seasonally.
Your vet will help advise you on when to start flea protection, but for most puppies the first treatment can occur once they are six to eight weeks old. The exact age will depend on the type of flea treatment chosen and the weight of your dog. If you have an adult dog, you can start any time – just ask
Flea protection comes in many forms, including pills, spot-ons and collars. Weaker preparations and drugs are available in pet shops, but the most effective prescription flea protection can only be sourced via a vet. Many of the flea preparations your vet can offer will also cover your dog for a range of other parasites as well, giving you peace of mind. Discussing flea protection with
If your dog already has fleas, don’t panic! Although an infestation can take time to eradicate, your vet will help provide you with everything you need to get on top of fleas in your home. The main points to remember are that you need to:
- Treat all dogs and cats in the home with flea treatment. Check other furry family members carefully to check they are not also infested, and treat if required.
- Treat ALL through your home.
- Treat pets with flea treatment regularly going forward.
- Flea treatment for all pets
- Flea-killing house spray (make sure to read to safety label)
- Carpet cleaning
- Regular hoovering and sweeping, including in the darkest and hardest to reach areas. Don't forget to throw away the dust bag from your vacuum cleaner after every use, else the flea larvae may escape back out!
- Hot washing fabrics at over 60 degrees, as this will destroy any fleas
Due to the flea lifecycle, and the ability of pupae to lay dormant, ongoing treatment for your pets is really important. Despite your best efforts it is impossible to definitely kill or remove all flea pupae. This means that there may be dormant pupae in the house. Although we are not sure exactly how long these pupae can lay dormant for, it may be as many as 21 months. At any point a dormant pupa could hatch, and will look to your pet as a food source. If you have continued with comprehensive flea protection for your dogs and cats, this newly hatched adult flea will die before laying any more eggs. Slowly, all dormant pupa will hatch, die or be removed, and your treated pets will prevent another infestation from developing. Your treated pets will also kill any new fleas that have been brought into the house, making sure that a new population cannot establish itself.
Our main UK fleas are not very fussy, and are more than happy to snack on an unsuspecting human! Making us itchy and sore, flea bites are often an unpleasant herald of the presence of fleas in the home. Flea bites can also cause more than itchy skin. Bartonella (also called cat scratch disease) can be transmitted by flea faeces; either by being accidentally ingested, or by getting into small breaks in the skin. Causing a low grade fever and swelling of the lymph nodes, bartonella infection can often be mistaken for the flu, and in many cases resolves on its own. Sadly, however, in some people bartonella infection can develop and cause chronic fatigue and headaches, and may become very debilitating.