How to Spot Fleas on Dogs in Amesbury, MA

If you have been a dog owner long enough, chances are you may have noticed fleas on your best friend at one time or another. Fleas are an external parasite who depend on blood meals to survive, and once fleas find a host, they will reproduce and set up camp on your dog indefinitely until you break their lifecycle. There are more than 2,500 different species of fleas that exist throughout the world, but the one most common among dogs and cats is the genus Ctenocephalides canis. The problem with fleas is that they are known vectors (transmitters) of such diseases like the plague, feline leukemia, and murine typhus, and that is why it’s important to use a veterinary-approved flea preventative for your dog regularly.

Fleas on Dogs in Amesbury, MA

How to Identify Fleas on Dogs

There are several signs of possible flea infestations that owners should be aware of, and some of these signs are listed below.

They are Visible

Most adult fleas are quite tiny, about an eighth of an inch long, and usually reddish-brown. Unless you have a microscope, fleas can be hard to spot, however, they are easier to spot on dogs with light-colored fur. Typically fleas like to congregate around the ears and face, and if you see a tiny black dot jumping around, most likely it’s a flea. Fleas can jump at least 12 inches in a single leap, and what’s more, for every adult flea found on your pet, there are at least 100 babies.

Your Dog is Scratching

If you notice that your dog is constantly scratching, or biting at its fur, your dog could have fleas. The reason that dogs scratch when they have fleas is that the salivary glands give off a substance that’s irritating to most dogs.

Your Dog is Losing Fur

Dogs who have fleas tend to scratch, especially in the areas where fleas like to hang out; the shoulder blades, ears, neck, and even the base of the tail. Since the saliva from the flea bites causes skin irritation, all of the scratching can cause hair loss.

You Can See Pepper-Like Flakes

Another sign of fleas is the appearance of tiny, black flakes on your dog’s fur. This is called “flea dirt,” and is the waste product of the flea’s blood meals. It does sound pretty gross, but flea dirt can also be left on furniture, carpet, and bedding.

You Can See Eggs and Larvae

Fleas can lay eggs on your pet, and they look like tiny white ovals. These tiny eggs can become embedded in your carpet and furniture and can hatch a few days later into flea larvae. If this is the case in your home, it’s important to call an exterminator.

Your Dog has Irritated-Looking Skin

Dogs who have fleas also have small, raised red dots on the surface of the skin, and these small raised areas are places where fleas have taken a blood-meal. Fleabites can also cause something called “flea dermatitis,” which is an allergic and hypersensitivity reaction to flea bites and can cause itchy, red, and scaly skin. If left untreated, flea dermatitis can lead to secondary skin infections.

Your Dog has Pale Gums

Dogs who suffer from large flea infestations can come down with anemia, a reduction in red blood cells. Puppies, young dogs, or older dogs with autoimmune diseases are at particular risk because the anemia can cause weakness, lethargy, and in severe cases death. Fleas are tenacious parasites, and can also transmit diseases to humans, and cause life-threatening problems for your dog. If you see any signs of fleas on your dog, you can always consult your veterinarian.

How to Check Your Dog for Fleas in Amesbury, MA

The easiest way to detect fleas on your dog is to conduct regular examinations of your best friend’s hair coat and grooming supplies. Examine combs and brushes, and also examine your dog’s ears, face, base of the tail, and abdomen. You can also have your dog stand over a white sheet or towel during grooming, and keep an eye out for fleas and flea-dirt.

How to Prevent Fleas on Your Dog

An ounce of prevention is vital in preventing and treating flea infestations in dogs. There are many flea products available from both your veterinarian and retailers. Popular flea preventatives include topical applications, once-a-month chewable, the Seresto collar, shampoos, and sprays. Many topical, or spot-on, applications target ticks as well and consist of a plastic applicator containing the flea medication. These medications are applied to the skin between the dog’s shoulder blades, and most of these topical medications are good for thirty days.

Oral medications are also very effective and are once-a-month flea preventatives that can only be obtained from your veterinarian. There is also a collar available, and although it can be pricey, the Seresto eight-month flea and tick preventative collar is very effective in providing long-term flea prevention. Shampoos are also available, can target flea infestations, but work best if used with an additional flea preventative. There are also sprays available as well that can target heavy infestations. For heavy flea infestations, a product called Capstar is available, and a single dose kills 90 percent of adult fleas.

Call Your Vet if Your Dog Has Fleas in Amesbury, MA

If you have any questions about fleas, and how to prevent fleas on your dog, call Merrimac Valley Animal Hospital at (978) 388-3074. Your veterinarian is your best resource for discussing the various flea prevention products and can offer recommendations to keep your best friend healthy and happy.

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Merrimac Valley Animal Hospital had humble beginnings in 1968. Dr. Walter Brown opened the animal hospital in a garage next to his home near the current hospital and operated out of this small space until the current building was built in 1969.