There’s only one “f” word that strikes fear into the hearts of all dog people: FLEAS. These blood-feasting insects are so tiny you can barely see them, but they wreak havoc on your home. If your dog has fleas, the bugs won’t stay on their unwilling host for long. It always starts with one, but soon enough, there are fleas in your carpet, couch, blankets, and even your bed. A flea infestation takes over your entire house, and your dog will suffer the most.
The longer you let fleas survive in your home, the harder they’ll be to get rid of. The problem is, you don’t always realize they’re there until their population has grown to an overwhelming number. You have to stop fleas sooner rather than later, and these five warning signs will help.
Signs Your Dog Has Fleas
#1 – Biting and Scratching
It’s in a flea’s best interest to hang on to their host as long as possible. Scratching can send them flying, and they seek hard-to-reach hiding places where they’re less likely to be kicked off. One of the most obvious sign your dog has fleas is consistent scratching and itching. The scratching will most likely be targeted at areas like the neck, armpits, groin, head, and tail because fleas know that’s where they’ll be safest.
When a dog has an itch they can’t scratch, they’ll attempt to satisfy that urge in creative ways. Biting their skin gets the job done, and so does rubbing against random pieces of furniture and even trees. They’ll do anything to relieve the itch, and what looks like odd behavior could actually be a kind of scratching.
#2 – Hair Loss
All that scratching will temporarily relieve your dog’s itchiness, but it also has cosmetic consequences. Too much attention to those itchy areas will eventually rip out the hair. Some dogs also have more extreme reactions to flea bites that cause fur to fall out. Your pup will be left with bald patches of skin, and the worse the flea infestation, the more bad hair days your dog will have. It’ll be easy to spot hair loss on a short-haired dog, but it’s a bit trickier with long-haired breeds. It’s important to groom your dog regularly and watch out for unusual patches of thinning fur.
#3 – Red Skin
As if getting bit by a bunch of bugs isn’t bad enough, some dogs are allergic to flea saliva. According to Pets Web MD, fleas inject saliva into a dog’s skin when they bite. Dogs with other seasonal allergies are most often the ones that are also allergic to fleas, but even dogs with no other health issues can suffer from fleabite allergies. A reaction to flea allergies is much worse than typical flea itchiness. Even one or two bites can drive a dog crazy with itching. Dogs with this type of allergy usually develop a rash of red, irritated skin. With time, excessive itching can cause that red skin to rip open and scab.
#4 – Flea Dirt
The term “flea dirt” is a polite way of saying flea poop. Fleas are barely big enough to see, and the waste they leave behind is even tinier—but it’s still big enough to be noticeable if you know what you’re looking for. Flea dirt looks like someone sprinkled pepper near the roots of your dog’s fur. If you can’t tell whether the specks on your dog’s skin are flea dirt or regular dirt, take a wet paper towel and try to clean them off. Flea dirt will turn into reddish-brown streaks. You should also try this trick with any black sprinklings you find other places in your house. If the flea infestation has advanced to other areas of your home, there could be flea dirt in your carpet.
#5 – Mysterious Bumps on Your Skin
Once your dog has fleas, it’s only a matter of time until the fleas reproduce and seek out other hosts. Your regularly-showered skin isn’t as tempting as a dog’s furry body, but it’ll do. Fleas might not live on you like they do your dog, but they’re not opposed to taking a bite when the opportunity presents itself. Flea bites look like small, red bumps, and itchiness can range from mildly bothersome to seriously irritating. They usually show up in clusters on feet, ankles, and arms. If you find some on your skin, you probably have fleas in your bed, couch, or somewhere else you spend a lot of time sleeping.
How to Get Rid of a Flea Infestation
Start at the Source (Your Dog)
Fleas will keep coming into your home as long as they’re allowed to hitch a ride on your dog. Having fleas makes your dog feel miserable, and you owe it to your furry best friend to devise some way of keeping them off. Here are a few ideas:
Preventative Medications: Most vets recommend pup parents use a preventative flea medication that both kills and deters fleas. There are options out there that can be taken orally as well as products that are applied topically. They usually work well, but there are also certain concerns to be aware of. Dogs Naturally Magazine tells pup parents that flea preventatives are pesticides. They’re made from chemicals, and there is evidence of them potentially damaging pet health. Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and nervousness are a few of the symptoms pet parents have reported.
Non-Chemical Flea Repellents: If you’re worried about side effects caused by chemical flea preventatives, there are several other ways to keep your pup free of fleas.
For example, the same Dawn dish soap you use in the kitchen can also be used to kill fleas. Try giving your dog a flea bath with Dawn, and you’ll see fleas jumping off his skin into the soapy water. Depending on the severity of the flea infestation, it might take a few baths to kill them all.
To naturally keep fleas away from your dog, invest in Natural Flea and Tick Repellent Spray. This spray uses soothing botanicals like citronella, peppermint, and lemongrass that fleas don’t like. You spray it on your dog’s skin, on their bed, and everywhere else in your house to keep all kinds of biting bugs at bay.
It’s not only the biting adult fleas you need to worry about. There are four stages of flea development: adult, pupae, larvae, and eggs. For every adult flea you see, there are many more in different life stages. Pest Hack says an adult flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day, and those eggs won’t hatch for several days. Even if you stop seeing adult fleas jumping off your dog, there could still be eggs, pupae, and larvae waiting for their chance to follow in mom ans dad’s footsteps. To get rid of them all, you’ll have to adopt an extensive cleaning regimen.
Vacuum: If you only get out the vacuum sporadically when your floor needs it, you need to up your cleaning game when your dog has fleas. Vacuum at least every other day to suck up flea eggs.
Steam Clean: Besides a normal vacuum, a steam cleaner will be your best friend when dealing with a flea infestation. The hot water will drown and kill fleas seeking refuge in your carpet. You can even use it on your upholstered furniture.
Wash Everything: Gather up everything that can go in the washer, and wash it all with hot water. That includes blankets, pillows, dog beds, collars, leashes, and plush dog toys. If you can put it in the dryer, that’s even better. The heat will kill all stages of fleas.
No matter how much you hate fleas, remember your dog hates them more. She’s taking the brunt of the consequences, and having fleas can make the happiest dogs miserable. Once you know they’re there, don’t hesitate to find a solution. Your dog will appreciate your quick action.
Project Paws® Natural Flea & Tick Repellent is made without harsh chemicals and can be used on your dog or around your home!
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