Dealing with a flea problem is not something that anyone enjoys and it is important to know how to keep fleas off dogs and other pets.
Flea bites are not just limited to your pets, you can also get bitten, especially on the ankle, which is not pleasant. The worst part is the suffering flea bite causes your dog as it bites and scratches itself to get rid of fleas .
In your plan of action on how to keep fleas off dogs there are two things that you need to take care of:
- Starting treatment immediately to deliver your dog from these troublesome bloodsuckers
- Making sure that they don’t return to trouble your pet again
Don’t ignore a flea problem even if it starts out small as it can get out of control quickly since fleas multiply very fast.
You can go with either natural prevention or conventional medicines as you take steps to keep fleas out for good from your dog as well as your home.
If you are unable to decide on the right method, always talk to your veterinarian about your situation and she should be able to guide you.
When is flea season?
Even though fleas remain a problem throughout the year, it’s during summer months that fleas tend to trouble pets the most and in some areas like the southern parts of the United States it can be a year round issue.
Fleas do well in temperatures of 65 to 80 degrees and humidity of 75 to 85 percent. If your home is in an area with such a climate year long, then you need to follow a strict schedule of flea control and prevention to ensure that your dog is comfortable and happy.
How do you know if your dog has fleas?
Finding fleas on your dog is easy. Though fleas are tiny you can easily spot them with your eye as long as you know where to look.
Fleas don’t like the light, so you will find them where the fur is thick such as near the dogs belly and inner thigh. Gently separate your dog’s fur and look on the skin underneath; fleas are those little copper looking things crawling on the surface of the skin.
Flea dirt is another sign that your dog has fleas. Flea dirt is not dirt but flea feces made up of digested blood.
If you notice something like pepper on the dog’s skin, pick up a few and put it on a wet paper towel. If it spreads into what looks like a blood stain, then its flea dirt for sure. If there is flea dirt you can be certain that there are also fleas.
The best way to get rid of fleas
The most effective way to eradicate a flea problem is to not just focus on removing the adult fleas but also on removing flea eggs, larva and pupa. It is therefore important to understand the flea life cycle, which is as shown below:
The flea life cycle
Fleas are around 3 millimeters in length and their bodies are flat and reddish brown in color. They don’t have wings and depend on their ability to jump; they can jump up to heights of 11 inches.
Eggs: Fleas can lay anywhere between 30 to 60 eggs daily and thousands over its lifetime. Flea eggs can remain on your dog’s fur but some can fall on your dog’s bedding and on the floor where it can get into the carpet, crevices of your couch and even under the baseboards.
Larva: They are hairy and look like worms. Flea larvae can be found in small and dark spaces such as below the carpet or in your dog’s bedding. The larva has three stages before it becomes a pupa and it’s important to get rid of them before they develop.
Pupa: The larva develops a silk cocoon, which grows into a pupa and the adult flea comes out of the pupa when the conditions are correct.
Adult: An adult flea can live for up to 3 months or even one and half years under the right conditions including being able to feed regularly.
In order to get rid of the flea problem it is essential that you use treatments to destroy fleas in all stages of their life cycle. If you focus only on removing adult fleas, then the eggs will hatch shortly afterwards and you will have to deal with the problem all over again.
Home remedies to treat a flea problem
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) – The fossil remains of algae, this white powder is safe for both humans and dogs. This natural flea repellent works by making holes in the flea’s exoskeleton, causing it to die. Treat your dog’s bedding and any other areas where fleas may be present. You can also apply a small amount of powder on your dog’s fur. Diatomaceous Earth kills fleas in around four hours time. .
Essential oil spray – Mix a few drops of an essential oil with around 300 ml of water in a spray bottle and spray on your dog’s coat but make sure to avoid the eyes. You can use essential oils like citronella, peppermint, rosemary, and eucalyptus. Essential oils will not kill fleas but will drive away the obnoxious pests. Fleas hate the fragrance of essential oils.
Coconut oil – You can also use coconut oil as a natural repellent against fleas. The fat in coconut oil prevents the fleas from moving and it eventually suffocates them.Take a little bit of coconut oil and rub it between your hands and then apply on your dog’s coat going all the way down to the skin. It’s best to take your dog outdoors when applying coconut oil because the fleas will jump out from the dog’s coat and you don’t want them inside your house.
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Over the counter flea treatments
Topical treatments: Topical flea medication is a liquid that you can apply on the dog’s skin once a month to prevent and kill fleas. Since it’s effective for 30 days you need to reapply it every month. Topical medication is often applied between the shoulder blades of the dog so it can’t lick it. Fleas will die within 24 hours of applying the medication, cutting down the chance of them laying eggs.
Collar: Collars can be used to protect your dog from fleas and ticks and they are effective for many months. Collars work by releasing flea and tick repellent chemicals which get spread over the dog through the natural oils on its body.
Check with your vet to see if if the flea collar is a right option for your dog
When selecting a flea collar go for one that is correct for your dog’s size and age. Remember that some dog collars can have a very strong smell which the dog may find unpleasant so make sure to go through the reviews before selecting one. You can check out this list of best dog flea collar for more information.
Once you put on the dog collar make sure to cut off any excess that is on the side to prevent your dog from chewing it. Also keep an eye to see if your dog shows any signs of discomfort such as scratching to make sure that there are no allergic reactions as a result of wearing the collar.
Flea shampoo: Depending on the brand, flea shampoo can kill fleas in different life stages and can also keep them away for days together. You will have to shampoo your dog on a weekly basis unless you are using it with another treatment.
Combing: A flea comb is a powerful weapon in the fight against these pests. It is also a good way to find out if there are fleas on your dog. Gather a bit of the dirt and hair that comes from the combing and rub it between a couple of slightly wet paper towels and if you notice red colored spots, then you have a flea problem.
While combing near the belly and tail, you may actually find some fleas trapped in the comb. Make sure to dip the comb in soapy water as fleas sometimes jump out of plain water.
You may find combing your dog daily a difficult task but remember this is very effective in keeping fleas off your dog.
Prescription flea medications
Oral flea control: Oral flea medications work very well but talk to your vet first to find one that will work well for your particular requirement. Some types of oral flea medication can kill fleas in a couple of hours and their effect normally lasts for a few months. Some types of flea medications do not kill the adult fleas but they stop the eggs from hatching.
You can also get your dog chewable tablets that can help with preventing fleas. Ask your vet for the right medication
Removing fleas from your carpets, flooring, bedding, and furniture
Fleas can enter your home through your dog. They can also stick to the soles of your shoes and enter your home where they may find a secure place in your carpets, in your pets bedding and your furniture. Fleas can jump up to 8 inches and those that live in your carpets tend to bite your ankle.
Here are a few tips to rid your home of these pesky pests:
- Use a vacuum to clean your carpets, curtains and floor on a regular basis and make sure to empty the vacuum bag in the trash so that the fleas cannot get out and spread in your home again. You will have to do this everyday to kill fleas at all life stages; immature fleas can remain for many months in your home. Focus on your dog’s favorite hangouts in your home, all corners and even baseboards. Also vacuum your car as fleas can enter from your shoes. Removing the flea eggs and larvae through regular vacuuming can limit the number of adult fleas hatching.
- Wash your tablecloths, bed sheets, pillow cases, your dog’s bedding, toys of your pet in soapy hot water to kill the fleas
- You can also seek the services of an exterminator.
How long can fleas live inside your home?
If a flea does not get blood it cannot live for more than a few days. However if it has access to blood from your dog or from yourself, it can live long. Once a female flea gets a blood meal, it starts laying eggs and that’s why it’s difficult to handle flea infestation.
How to build up your dog’s inner defense?
Strengthening your dog’s immunity should be your priority as fleas tend to attack hosts that are not very healthy. Feed your dog the best diet because it is the foundation of good health.
Treating fleas in your yard
Fleas do well in warm and humid conditions and they can lay up to 50 eggs daily. Your lawn and yard are perfect breeding grounds for fleas, which will attach to your dog and get inside your home, causing problems. You can develop sores and rashes from their bites.
Spotting fleas in your yard is not easy. You can put on a pair of long white socks and walk around your yard, especially in the areas that your dog likes to hang out. If you notice fleas on your socks, you obviously have a flea infestation in your yard. Make sure to dispose of the white socks in the trash.
Now that you have established a flea infestation problem here are steps that you can take:
1: Mow your lawn
Long grass is an ideal place for fleas to hide, so make sure to regularly mow your lawn. Don’t cut it below two inches as you want natural predators of fleas such as spiders and ants to thrive.
2: Clean your yard
Clear your yard by removing scrub vegetation, plants, leaves and trash from near the edges of your yard to prevent fleas from having a hiding place to lay eggs.
3: Reduce moisture
Fleas thrive in damp environments so make sure not to water your lawn and plants too much.
4: Let the sun shine
Fleas like dark places, so trim plants and trees to make sure that there is plenty of sunlight everywhere.
5: Spread Nematodes
You can spread Nematodes which are small worms in damp and warm areas of your yard to kill flea larvae. Nematodes are non-toxic and feed on flea larvae. You can buy Nematodes online, at big box retailers, or at garden centers.
6. Add flea repelling plants
You can add fragrant herbs to your yard as they are very good at repelling fleas.
You should plant flea repelling plants around the entrances of your home, near the home’s foundation, around windows (since fleas can jump high) and areas that your pet is likely to wander around. You can grow them in pots for areas like your entrances or windows.
Below are a list of plants that you can add safely around your house:
- Lemon Balm
How long can outdoor flea infestations last?
Unfortunately ridding your home and dog of fleas is not something that you do once and forget.
It can take one or two months because of the flea’s life cycle mentioned above but the important thing is to follow the treatment and preventative measures without a break.