How Do Dogs Get Fleas?
Plus, how to identify and prevent this pesky parasite from infecting your hound and your home.
As nature becomes lighter and brighter with the arrival of spring, unfortunately, we also welcome back many critters that are most active from spring to autumn, like fleas! These pesky parasites aren’t just an itchy nuisance for your dog, they can make your pup very unwell if left untreated.
To help you get prepped for flea season, keep reading as we explore:
How to identify fleas
How to prevent fleas
How to get rid of fleas
What are fleas?
Fleas are incredibly common parasites that survive by drinking the blood of a host, which is usually a furry mammal such as a dog or cat, but fleas can even be found on humans too (we know, just the thought can make you feel itchy)!
A flea’s life cycle has four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
It’s incredibly important to eradicate fleas as soon as you spot them, ideally before they can complete a full life cycle - which typically takes three to six weeks in normal household conditions – as this will help stop an infestation from developing.
As flea infestations can be very tricky to get rid of, the best course of action is prevention! (We’ll cover how to prevent a flea infestation below).
What do fleas look like?
Fleas are small, wingless insects that have three pairs of legs. They have flat, red-brown bodies and biting mouthparts. These tiny critters measure just 1 to 3mm long, which can make them hard to spot on your dog.
Despite not having wings, fleas can move super-fast, and their jumping skills are even more impressive. In fact, fleas can jump up to 13 inches, which is more than a hundred times their own body length! It’s no wonder that they can hop onto our furry friends with ease.
Do fleas carry diseases?
It’s easy to think of fleas simply as little bloodsuckers that make our dogs scratch, but these critters are much more than an itchy pest. Fleas can transmit several nasty diseases to your dog that’ll make them seriously unwell and even fatal if left untreated.
Dogs can get flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) from fleas, as well as anaemia and bartonellosis. If your dog accidentally ingests fleas that are infected with tapeworms (they may do this when grooming themselves), they could become infected with a tapeworm too.
Does my dog have fleas?
There are a few things you can look out for to determine if your pup has fleas.
The most common signs your dog has fleas include:
Your dog is itching, biting, or chewing their skin.
Your dog’s skin looks red and bumpy or irritated. They may even have some hair loss from frequently scratching themselves.
You’ve spotted fleas or flea dirt (excrement) on your dog’s skin.
You’ve seen small critters that jump or quickly scurry away when brushing your dog’s hair.
The best way to check your dog for fleas is:
Comb through your dog’s fur with a fine-toothed comb.
Comb close to your pup’s skin so you can capture any potential fleas, flea eggs, or droppings.
While you comb your dog’s fur with one hand, it’s a good idea to use your other hand to hold something white close to their fur, like a piece of paper or kitchen roll, this way you’ll clearly spot any fleas or flea droppings and collect them too.
If you’re still not sure if your dog has fleas, speak to your vet for more advice.
After combing your dog’s fur to check for fleas, why not treat them to a scrub in the tub? To make bath time even more fun, you could dry your pup off with their very own customized towel!
How do dogs get fleas?
Our furry friends can get fleas in lots of ways. Your dog may brush next to a flea-infested dog on a walk or on a playdate at another pup’s home.
Fleas can also jump incredible distances, so it’s not unusual for them to jump through a window or door into your home. If you aren’t using flea preventatives, your dog is much more likely to become infested with fleas.
Some of the most common ways dogs can get fleas include:
Strolling through the grass. Dogs can catch fleas from the grass in your garden or at the park, especially if other flea-infested animals have walked through the area. Fleas will patiently wait in the grass and then jump onto your pup’s fur or your clothing and hitchhike a ride back to your home.
From other dogs. Whether your dog loves socializing at the park or regularly meeting up with their best furry friend, fleas can easily jump from one dog to another and set up camp.
From other pets. A common question for multi-pet households is whether dogs can get fleas from cats. The fact is, cats can pick up fleas the same way that dogs do! So, if you have a cat then it’s important to properly treat them with flea medication in the same way you’d do with your dog. The same goes for any mammal in the house, including guinea pigs and rabbits.
How to prevent a flea infestation
It’s much easier to prevent an infestation of fleas than to remove them from your furry friend or your home.
In the home
Keep your home clean and practise good hygiene to avoid infestation.
Vacuum floors, carpets and furniture regularly and dispose of the vacuum’s contents right away - this means that if you’ve picked up any fleas they can’t escape into your home again.
Wash bed covers and sheets regularly to prevent fleas from laying their eggs there.
If you have a garden – mow the grass on a regular basis to avoid it becoming a hangout place for fleas.
On your dog
The best way to protect your pooch from fleas is with preventative flea medication. Many flea treatments for dogs will also protect them from other critters, like ticks, and internal parasites too. It’s best to speak to your vet for more advice on this.
Check and groom your dog’s coat regularly, especially after they’ve been outdoors.
Keep an eye out for signs that your pup has been bitten, like excessive itching and biting.
Wash your dog’s bedding and toys regularly.
Be sure to clean your dog’s bedding regularly to keep fleas at bay. This includes your pup’s bed and the blanket they snuggle up to as well.
How to get rid of fleas on dogs
So, if you’ve determined that your dog does have fleas, the next step is to get rid of the pesky critters. Fortunately, there are many products available that’ll come to the rescue.
Speak to your vet and they’ll recommend the best advice and flea treatment for your dog. If you have more than one dog, or other furry friends in your home, you’ll need to treat them too (even if they’re not showing symptoms).
If you discover fleas in your home, it’s crucial to remove them - you may even wish to seek help from a licensed pet professional to assist you.
Yappy to help
We hope you’ve found this post helpful when it comes to spotting fleas and how to prevent them!