Is your dog jumpy? Has your cat been doing even more grooming than usual? These could be tip-offs that your pet has caught fleas. As well as causing your pet discomfort, fleas can lead to diseases, and a cat or dog with fleas can spread the pests around your home. Find out what it is like for your pet to host fleas, and learn to recognize the signs that fleas are tormenting your cat or dog.
Bites Are More Than Just Itchy
Fleas, like mosquitoes, bite for sustenance -- your pet’s blood is a flea’s dinner. Along with their saliva, fleas inject an anticoagulant chemical when biting. This anticoagulant is an irritant, causing redness and itching. For some pets and people, the bites won’t be a big deal, but for many pets, the bites are more than just a nuisance.
Fleas bite frequently, and new generations of fleas are born and develop quickly into adults. Given the volume of bites, pets can potentially grow anemic from the depletion of blood. If your cat or dog is extremely lethargic and has pale gums, this is a tip-off that your pet may have fleas. Fleas can also carry diseases and transmit them through bites, making them a carrier of problems like a tapeworm.
Flea bites can start to resemble hives and welts. Grooming may become somewhat obsessive and incessant as your pet tries to solve the flea problem. Rather than eliminating the problem, excessive grooming can lead to hot spots and hairless patches of fur on your cat or dog. In particular, you may see your pet lick, bite, and gnaw a lot around their paws.
Behavior Changes Caused by Flea Bites
Fleas can also cause your pet to behave differently -- your cat or dog might seem very skittish and jumpy in response to bites and discomfort. And, you might notice your pet avoiding certain previously comfortable spots in the house, which might be associated with fleas and mites.
Fleas Make Pets their Home
Unlike mosquitoes, fleas will persistently stick around, making a pet a host animal and feeding upon them for days or weeks if no treatment is used. The adult fleas will lay eggs on your pet, which generally roll onto the surrounding area. (If your cat likes a carpeted corner, or your dog has bedding, those are likely locations for flea eggs.) Once fleas progress through the life cycle to the adult phase, eating is imperative, and the new adult flea will use your pet as a feeding ground. Once fed, fleas will lay eggs, perpetuating the cycle.
In addition to using your pet as a source of sustenance, and a place to lay eggs, fleas also excrete on your pets. You may see flea dirt -- the dark reddish-brown feces of fleas -- on your pet’s skin. You may also see this flea dirt on carpets or bedding.
We recommend preventing a flea problem before it starts with the use of simple, effective spot-on or oral treatments like K9 Advantis II or Comfortis. For the best flea and tick medication for dogs and cats, check this list to see which medication has what you are looking for.
What if My Dog Eats a Flea or Tick?
The short answer is don't worry too much if your dog eats a flea or a tick. Your pet’s stomach is strong enough to handle accidental insect ingestion, and so are you! While watching your dog pick up a dead bug with the tip of his tongue might not be the most pleasant sight, as long as it’s not a regular occurrence there is no cause for concern.
One Flea, Two Flea, Three Flea, Four
However, if your pet has developed an affinity for munching on bugs, I wouldn’t be as cavalier about their crunchy diet. Speak with your veterinarian or a pet specialist if you notice flea and tick ingestion becoming a common problem. When fleas are consumed on a regular basis, the probability of your dog developing tapeworm greatly increases.
As fleas often feed on pet feces, they are known to carry tapeworm eggs in their system, which can be transmitted to a cat or dog upon digestion. In most cases, a dog’s stomach acid should be strong enough to kill off the egg before it hatches. The same goes for ticks.
If a tapeworm does happen to develop, there are several safe and efficient treatments including fast-acting antibiotics. To prevent tapeworms, be diligent about preventative flea and tick control year-round. If your cat or dog is on a regularly scheduled treatment plan, the possibility of dead fleas, eggs or larva being accidentally eaten greatly decreases. On the same token, stay diligent about your pet’s hygiene as well as the cleanliness of your home to ensure a happy and healthy life for your pet.
Frequently Asked Questions
How harmful are fleas to dogs?
Fleas can be harmful to dogs in several ways. First and foremost, fleas can cause discomfort and irritation for your dog. Flea bites can cause itching and scratching, which can lead to skin irritation and inflammation. In severe cases, fleas can cause anemia in dogs, especially in puppies or older dogs. Fleas can also transmit diseases to your dog. One of the most common diseases transmitted by fleas is called bartonellosis, which is caused by the bacterium Bartonella henselae. This disease can cause a range of symptoms, including fever, lethargy, and swollen lymph nodes. In addition to causing physical harm, fleas can also be a nuisance for both you and your dog. Fleas can infest your home and yard, and they can be difficult to eliminate once they become established. It's important to take steps to prevent fleas from infesting your dog and your home. This can include using flea-preventative products, regularly grooming your dog, and keeping your yard and home clean. If your dog does develop a flea infestation, it's important to take steps to eliminate the fleas as soon as possible to prevent further harm to your dog.
How can you tell if a dog has fleas?
There are several signs that may indicate that your dog has fleas. If your dog is constantly scratching or biting at their skin, it could be a sign that they have fleas. You may be able to see small, dark fleas crawling on your dog's skin or in its fur. Flea dirt is the excrement of adult fleas, and it looks like small, dark specks. If you see these specks on your dog's skin or in their fur, it could be a sign that they have fleas. If your dog has fleas, their skin may become red and inflamed, especially around the areas where they are biting or scratching. Fleas can also cause hair loss in dogs due to excessive scratching and biting at the skin. If you suspect that your dog has fleas, it's important to take steps to eliminate the fleas as soon as possible to prevent further harm to your dog. This can include using flea-preventative products, regularly grooming your dog, and keeping your yard and home clean.
What kills fleas on dogs instantly?
There are several products that can kill fleas on dogs quickly and effectively. Topical flea preventatives are applied to the skin on the back of the neck and contain ingredients that kill fleas and prevent new infestations. Some popular topical flea preventatives include Frontline Plus, Advantage, and Vectra 3D. Oral flea preventatives are given to your dog orally and contain ingredients that kill fleas and prevent new infestations. Some popular oral flea preventatives include Capstar and Comfortis. There are shampoos that contain ingredients that kill fleas and can be used to treat a flea infestation. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product carefully and avoid getting the shampoo in your dog's eyes. Flea combs are fine-toothed combs specifically designed to remove fleas and flea eggs from your dog's fur. Be sure to comb your dog's entire body and dispose of the fleas and flea eggs immediately. It's important to note that these products should be used according to the instructions on the label and only as directed by your veterinarian. It's also important to note that some of these products may not be suitable for all dogs, so be sure to consult with your veterinarian before using any flea treatment products on your dog.
How long does it take to kill fleas on a dog?
The length of time it takes to kill fleas on a dog will depend on the specific product you are using and the severity of the flea infestation. Some products may be more effective at killing fleas than others, and some may work more quickly than others. Topical flea preventatives and oral flea preventatives are generally effective at killing fleas within 24 hours of application. Shampoo products may be effective at killing fleas within a few hours of use, but they may need to be reapplied multiple times to eliminate the infestation fully. It's important to follow the instructions on the product label and use the product as directed. If the flea infestation is severe, it may take longer to eliminate the fleas fully. In these cases, it may be necessary to use multiple products in combination or to seek the help of a veterinarian. It's also important to remember that flea treatment products are not a one-time solution. To prevent future flea infestations, it's important to use flea prevention products on a regular basis and to maintain good hygiene practices in your home and yard.
Can I sleep with my dog if it has fleas?
It is generally not recommended to sleep with your dog if it has fleas. Fleas can bite humans as well as pets, and they can transmit diseases to humans. Fleas can also cause allergic reactions in some people, leading to symptoms such as itching and rashes. If your dog has fleas, it's important to take steps to eliminate the fleas as soon as possible to prevent further harm to your dog and to prevent the fleas from spreading to other areas of your home. This can include using flea-preventative products, regularly grooming your dog, and keeping your yard and home clean. If you are concerned about fleas, it may be best to avoid sleeping with your dog until the flea infestation has been completely eliminated. If you do need to sleep with your dog while it has fleas, be sure to use a flea prevention product on your dog and to use protective measures, such as wearing long sleeves and pants, to prevent flea bites.
More Flea and Tick Control Advice
What Does a Flea Bite Look Like?
Natural Flea Treatment for Your Home and Your Pet
What is Flea Allergy Dermatitis?
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professionals with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.