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Me and the better half do not have children yet and so my pooches are pretty much my babies. Years ago, I was giving BG1 a good ol’ scratch on his belly when I noticed some black dirt on his underside – I brushed it away and thought nothing more of it, after all, they go to the park and get all sorts of dirt on them and this was no different. The next week, I noticed the same dirt, but this time, more. I brushed it away again and, once again, foolishly didn’t think much of it. Then I noticed him scratch – and not just a quick scratch, a non-stop sort of scratch. Being a good mummy, I scratched for him and it was while doing this that I saw it – this black ant like thing crawl under his white fur – like I had done it a disfavour by waking it up! I assumed it was an ant (sorry but I’ve never seen a flea before) and started to look for this ant on his fur. I popped him on his back and almost had a mini heart attack – while looking for this ‘ant’ I found more and more of this ‘dirt’ under his fur that I had missed before – how foolish did I feel! I called the vet and told him what I had found, he said ‘yes, sounds like he’s got fleas – you better check your other dog!’ WHAT?!?! Grabbed my girl, and she had the same ‘dirt’ on her belly. I soon found out that this ‘dirt’ is actually flea dropping, yes, flea poop, on my poor pooch. So, let me get this straight, after sucking my dogs blood, the fleas had the audacity to leave their poo ON my dogs?! Yup. Indeed. No bloody shame those fleas! Fleas are common occurrence in dogs, so don’t be surprised if you find one (or a few) on your pooch. Check out what flea dirt looks like below – Images courtesy of Google.
I combed out as much as I could, and made an appointment with the vet that same evening. He gave us a pipette to use on the dogs and said it should clear in a few days – as there was more than one flea on each dog. Where did it come from – Why did they get it – How do I prevent it – Was it something we did – Something in the house etc etc – I asked the vet all of these and got my answers.
Where do fleas come from?
This is such an open ended question – and the answer is everywhere. Fleas need warm hosts to survive – they feed on blood and worse, they can jump from host to host (which is why both my pooches had it). They can even hitch a ride on clothes of anyone who enters your house, or whom you come into contact with. Another way the fleas make themselves welcome is by jumping from animal to animal, I think one of my pooches might have caught it from a dog they met at the park who already had fleas. If you live in a new home, its quite possible that the fleas or their eggs were already there before you moved in, and get this folks: Flea eggs are capable of lying dormant for months on end – they hatch when its warm enough which is why you see more cases of flea infestation in the summer months and why in hotter climates, more animals get fleas as opposed to countries which have seasons. So really, fleas come from anywhere which makes it incredibly hard to control. The best thing to do to prevent your pooches from getting these nasty creatures on them is to make sure you use the monthly flea prevention on them.
Dishing the Dirt on these nasty little flea creatures
Most of the dirt you see on your pet will come from the female flea, though the male of the species also lives off the blood of its host animal and will drop dirt. In a female flea’s life cycle, she will put away approximately fifteen times her own body weight, which doesn’t seem like a lot when you take into account her size, but it can add up for your pet, and give way to considerable loss in blood, sometimes leading to anemia. This is very dangerous in dogs if it gets to that stage – it could kill them so be sure to check if you think you pooch is scratching more than usual. I myself found 4 ticks on my boy and about 2 on my girl (though I am unsure if there were more than we missed) Flea allergy dermatitis is another thing you dog can get from a flea bite, usually minor skin irritation occurs but in rare cases, the dog may develop an allergy to the flea’s saliva. This will cause the dog to scratch excessively and could result in hair loss. Tapeworms are another common parasite associated with fleas,
Tapeworms are a common parasite associated with fleas. Though not transmitted by bites, fleas cause tapeworm infestations when the dog grooms and ingests a flea carrying the tapeworm larva. After ingestion, the tapeworm larva continues to develop in the dog’s gastrointestinal tract. When developed, the head of the tapeworm will attach to the intestinal wall and small egg filled segments periodically break off and are passed out the rectum. These segments are fed on by flea larva and the cycle continues. Though tapeworms do not usually result in illness in the dog, removal of the tapeworm is recommended.
Where in the house?
There are certain places in your home that might be a hotspot for fleas. These would primarily be where you dog sleeps, in your doggies bedding, carpeting and furniture.
How long they hang around for?
How long is a piece of string? Once fleas make it into your home, they go forth and multiply, hence the term “flea infestation.” Fleas breed prolifically. The adult female flea lays eggs every single day of her life. These eggs are spread around your home when they fall, unseen, from the host animal as it moves about. The flea eggs hatch into minute larvae, which cocoon themselves until they are fully grown. When the adult flea emerges from its cocoon and finds a host, it immediately begins to feed on its blood and prepare to lay more eggs, beginning the cycle all over again. Once we found out that our two had them, we had to boil wash everything in the house and give the carpet a deep clean.
Places where the humidity is high and have moderate daytime temperatures. They quite like the shade too and hang out in animal enclosures such as kennels and doghouses. Among vegetation is another favourite dwelling place of the flea.
How to locate fleas if you are outside?
Strangely enough, fleas are attracted to white/light coloured things, so if you’re using white socks or white clothes, you might be able to spot them as they jump onto you. White dogs are apparently more prone to get fleas because of their colour too – although scientifically, this has not been proven. Through personal experience, both my dogs are predominantly white and have had them, my sisters dog is brown and has never had them.
How to keep your house as flea free as possible?
Vacuum Vacuum Vacuum. I know this sounds tiring and it is, but this really does help. Vacuuming can remove up to 50% of flea eggs. Less flea eggs = less fleas. The vibrations from your vacuum can result in the emergence of adult fleas from the larvae stage. PS: Don’t forget to throw away the vacuum bag after you vacuum, if you keep the bags, this will allow the eggs that’s in the bag to hatch and start the whole process all over again! Steam clean your carpets regularly too. I always wash my dogs bedding once a month, on a very hot wash. I also check them every week for any signs of fleas – catching it early makes all the difference! If you have severe flea infestation, call an expert, he’ll fog the place and get rid of those pesky fleas once and for all!!
Vets recommend monthly prevention of this by administering monthly flea prevention medication. This comes in pipettes or tablets.The pipettes are administered on the nape on the neck directly onto the skin (See picture above and below) Tablets are administered orally or hidden inside your pooches food if he’s fussy about eating pills. I use the pipettes as my two are not a fan of the tablets and sniffed them out when we tried to hide it in their food. Always check you have the right dosage of medication – I use two different ones as my boy is heavier than my girl and so he needs a stronger dose than her.
Someone commented on ‘natural remedies’ to prevent fleas, as there have been reports that some pipettes/tablets contain ingredients that might affect your dogs (mine are fine when we administer these) but again – every dog is different. I unfortunately have not heard or done too much research on this, but I have found this article online here. Has anyone tried this – any idea if this works? I would love to hear more if anyone has tried this?
Of course – each dog is different and will react differently. Some people I know have an issue directly putting something that goes into the dogs bloodstream, whereas some people I know swear by this, Speak to your vet about your concerns.
I hope this article helps you and your pooches folks – please share any advice/tips you might have to get rid/prevent fleas getting on our beloved pooches in the comment box below – I would love to hear from all.
PP/S: Read more about flea prevention here and here. In addition to what my vet advised, I also did personal research before writing this article. Some of the information I found for the article was through various searches on the internet – all of which have been confirmed to be correct by my vet.