EVERYTHING You Need To Know About Fleas And How To Get Rid Of Them
EVERYTHING You Need To Know About Fleas And How To Get Rid Of Them
Spotlight Pets here. Now that summer is upon us, let’s talk about the birds and the…fleas.
What are fleas? Are fleas dangerous? How do I get rid of fleas?!
If you let your dog outside (and you should), it will happen to almost everyone at some point. Pets need mental and physical stimulation, this means walks outside and exploring. All it takes is a run through the yard, or walk around the block. Fleas can be waiting in the grass for your pup to come near and that’s when they attack.
What are fleas?
Fleas are small (1mm-2mm in size) parasitic insects that live by feeding on the blood of their hosts. Sounds medieval, right? Like some kind of vampire? Well, you can put your garlic braids and wooden stakes down. In most cases, fleas are irritating, but not deadly. However, if left untreated, some cases can become severe.
For millions of years, fleas have been irritating animals of all shapes and sizes. There are thousands of species around the world and over 200 in North America. Since fleas prefer temperatures of 65-80 degrees and humidity levels of 75-85 percent, they are most active during the summer months and found in virtually every state in America.
Fleas live in the fur and bedding of dogs, cats and other mammals. They will feed and reproduce as long as their conditions allow it, detecting the next potential host nearby and jumping from one host, to another - repeating the cycle of feeding and reproducing.
Are Fleas Dangerous?
Fleas are most associated with your pets, but they can also affect humans.
Generally, fleas are not dangerous, however they have been known to carry some dangerous bacteria, which can be transmitted by the bite of an infected flea. How dangerous? Well, the bubonic plague is often blamed on rats, but the real culprit were the fleas on the backs of those rats. Of course, this is not very likely, but it has happened.
What to watch out for.
In humans, one indication might be bites around the feet, ankles or legs. Many times, bites will appear in groups of three or four and sometimes appear in a line. They may also form a small scab surrounded by a light red halo. However, since they don’t always produce a reaction in humans, flea bites many times go unnoticed.
Sometimes, small children and those who are allergic may have an adverse reaction. This can include swelling and itching. Skin may become irritated and painful around the bite, and sometimes hives and a rash will appear. Scratching the bite can cause a secondary infection.
Fortunately, humans don’t usually make good hosts for fleas, so an attack, may just be out of opportunity from a flea that has just emerged from its cocoon, looking for an easy meal.
Symptoms in our pets will be a bit different. If you notice abnormal and excessive scratching, you might want to take a closer look. Adult fleas are visible to the naked eye, but they are small and they are fast!
If you have a light colored dog, you might notice “flea dirt.” Tiny dark flecks that resemble black pepper. This is actually the feces from fleas.
If your pet is darker colored, you’ll want to run a fine toothed comb through its fur to check for flea dirt, and for fleas themselves. Place the material on a damp white tissue or paper towel. The moistened flea dirt will reveal a reddish-rust color on the paper towel which represents the pet’s blood ingested by the flea. We like this 3 Piece - Dog Comb Set. It includes 3 different sized combs for different types of fur or hard to reach areas.
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There are a wide variety of treatment options on the market today. We’ll talk about some of them here, along with some of the benefits and risks. It’s important to keep in mind, every pet is different and the best treatment will depend on your specific pet’s needs. Consult your vet about which treatment may be best for your pet.
First and foremost, getting rid of the source of the fleas will be key to dealing with any infestation. Be sure your living areas are clean and free of the adult fleas and their eggs. This means your pets bed, bedding, floors and any furniture your pet may be in contact with, such as sofas, chairs and even rugs should all be vacuumed and / or shampooed, when possible. Typically, eggs will hatch into larvae in a couple of weeks, so it’s important to keep these areas clean for at least that long.
Prescription treatments can be one of the quickest and most effective ways to kill fleas fast. Some of these medications have age and weight restrictions, so again, can’t say this enough, please consult your vet about which treatment may be best for your pet. Here are the four most effective flea medications:
Bravecto (fluralaner) will start to kill fleas within two hours and can last for up to three months. This is an oral medication, which must be taken with food. How this works, is by ingesting Bravecto, it moves to the tissue fluids near the skin. When fleas bite you dog, they ingest the Bravecto and die.
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NexGard (afoxolaner) is meant to kill adult fleas. Once a flea attaches to your dog and begins to feed, the active ingredient, afoxolaner, acts to kill the adult fleas. By killing the adults before they can lay eggs, the fleas life cycle is interrupted and hopefully ended. NexGard lasts for up to 30 days and also kills ticks, which means, it could be an ideal monthly oral preventative for dogs. Be careful though, while great for most dogs, some side effects could include vomiting, diarrhea, dry/flaky skin, lethargy and lack of appetite.
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Since afoxolaner only targets the adults and not the eggs, it can take longer to control and aggressive outbreak. For that reason, we prefer some of the other methods.
Capstar (Nitenpyram) Capstar (nitenpyram) is a fast-acting, over-the-counter flea pill for dogs. It’s absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly, and can start to work to kill fleas within 30 minutes of ingestion. More than 90 percent of fleas on your dog could be killed within 4 hours. Like NexGard, Capstar only kills adult fleas that have fed on your dog. However, Capstar will leave your dog’s system after 24-to-48 hours. This means, it could be an effective for immediate relief, but can’t be used as a long-term treatment option or preventative. Side effects, if any, should be mild, but can include stomach upset and itchiness. The itchiness is a result of the dying fleas and should resolve within a few hours. Also, there is a potential for allergic reactions to nitenpyram, so again, please consult your vet.
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Comfortis (Spinosad) Comfortis (spinosad) is a chewable tablet that can be used as a monthly preventative flea pill. The active ingredient, spinosad, works by causing paralysis and death in adult fleas, killing them before they can lay eggs. Like most of the other treatments, this is intended to interrupt the flea’s life cycle. Given as a monthly preventative, Comfortis can help to treat and prevent infestations. Comfortis will begin to kill adult fleas within 30 minutes after ingestion, and has a demonstrated 100 percent effectiveness within 4 hours. A common side effect when taking Comfortis is vomiting. Some less common side effects include lethargy, diarrhea, itchiness, drooling, shaking, ataxia, and seizures. Also something to note, Comfortis does not protect against ticks.
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Topical medications are very common and can be very effective. It should be applied directly to the skin in the area between your dogs shoulder blades. The reason for this, is because this is an area that will be difficult for your dog to reach. You don’t want your pet biting or licking the area where the medication is applied. Not only can they potentially get sick, but they can also remove the medication. Bayer Advantage II Flea and Lice Treatment has worked well for us in the past. Be sure to find the right treatment dose for your sized dog.
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Flea collars are usually better at preventing a flea infestation than curing one. There are many drawbacks with using a collar. First of all, let’s talk about how they work. Some work by emitting gas, which repels fleas and ticks. Others work by seeping medication into your dogs skin.
Some things to watch out for, however, if you have small children, they may come into contact with the chemicals in the collar and ingest them by touching the collar, then put their hands in their mouths. Also, while the collar may work well on your pets front legs, shoulders and head, its hind quarter will not have the same protection, since those areas are further from the collar.
If you do go with a collar, we recommend the Rolf Club 3D FLEA Collar. It’s well built and is adjustable in size.
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Shampoos and Dips
A flea shampoo, or "flea bath" can be a good first step in dealing with fleas for a pet that has large numbers of fleas visible on its body. A flea shampoo is not intended for lasting control, usually only effective for a day or less. However they leave little residual chemical on the animal when properly used.
Our pick for best shapoo is Adams Plus Flea & Tick Shampoo with Precor.
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Try it along with our very own Spotlite Pets Grooming Glove for best results. Designed with the perfect combination of rubber nodules that feel like a gentle massage during bath time promoting increased circulation.
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Flea dips, on the other hand, are usually applied to your pets fur or skin with a sponge and are not intended to be washed off.
Many commercial flea dips contain pyrethrins, which is a concentrated form of Pyrethrum, a natural insecticide that comes from the flowers of chrysanthemum plants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), when pyrethrins gets into an insect's nervous system, it shuts it down and results in death.
Dips should not be used on puppies, or pregnant dogs. In fact, flea dips are not really the safest and most effective treatment for fleas anymore and should probably be avoided, in favor or some of the other treatments we talk about in this article. For that reason, we cannot recommend the use of any flea dips.
At the end of the day, only you and your vet can decide what is best for your pet, but hopefully we’ve been able to answer some of biggest questions.
Be safe out there!