It’s among the worst fear of every pet owner: a flea infestation. You know they cause major itchies and irritation, but there are other dangers that can cross the canine-human barrier. Fleas can trigger problems like skin irritation, allergic reactions and anemia, and are just downright disgusting, since they can also infest your house and bite the human inhabitants living there!
This is all a prelude to say: you should know the signs of fleas and ticks so you can get any infestation under control before it gets, well, out of control.
- Fleas are REALLY small: about the size of a pin head.
- They are generally dark brown or black, and they move quickly and even jump.
- If you notice your pet is scratching excessively, especially after time outdoors or with other animals, it’s time to search for fleas.
- Check the head, neck, groin, back legs and base of the tail first, as fleas like to hang out in these areas best.
- Fleas do not attach to the skin (like ticks), which means they can be transferred from your dog to anywhere in the house, and spread from there. (ick!!)
Finding and Getting Rid of Fleas:
- On short haired dogs, run your hand against the direction of fur growth and look for tiny fast-moving specks against the skin.
- Use a flea comb (with very fine-toothed metal tines) to search for fleas in cats and short-haired dogs: Run the comb against the direction of growth through the fur, slowly and in sections. Rubbing petroleum jelly on the comb will make any fleas you do find stick to the comb.
- If you’ve actually found fleas on your fur-baby, sorry, you’ve got an infestation. Now is the time to also check for fleas on your dog’s bed, rugs, or on any soft places that he spends a lot of time.
- Bathe your dog: to ensure you’re fully rinsing out the fleas, place a white towel beneath your dog, since fleas often fall off during the rinsing process. You can use any of earthbath’s shampoos, or else your vet may prescribe a special “flea dip” treatment to kill the infestation. Eucalyptus and Peppermint earthbath shampoo is a favorite to soothe skin irritation from flea bites.
- To get rid of fleas in your house, thoroughly clean and vacuum any area with which your pet has had extended contact (and empty the vacuum receptacle immediately).
- If you’ve found black/brown dust on your dog or cat’s fur or bedding, there is a good chance this is “flea dirt,” which is the excretions fleas leave behind after they’ve had a meal of blood (hope you’re not eating while reading this!)
- To confirm it’s flea dirt and not just dirt, wet a white paper towel, press it to the dust and if it turns reddish brown then voila, it’s flea dirt for sure. The reason it turns reddish is because it’s basically digested blood.
- There are many ways to prevent your dog from getting fleas, from natural remedies (detailed in our blog post on this topic) including certain essential oils and nutritional additives to topically-applied solutions, and even prescription pills that prevent and also kill any parasitic activity. Check with your veterinarian for the preventative that makes the most sense for your pet.
- But the best way to prevent fleas is to keep your pet healthy! Fleas and ticks are far more likely to attach to animals with poorly maintained coats and dirty, matted fur and also animals with weak immune systems.
- Bathing your dog and cat regularly with a good, natural shampoo is also a first line of defense against fleas and ticks. earthbath’s Orange Peel Oil Shampoo is great for flea prevention due to its concentrated citrus oil. Orange Peel Oil is the natural oil rendered from oranges, and is also called d-Limonene. d-Limonene is registered with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency as an insecticide and is very effective at killing fleas
- Ultimately: prevention is ideal, but if you notice an infestation, don’t worry: treating a problem (any problem) as soon as you notice it will help both you and your pet feel better quickly. If your pet is scratching more than usual, take note. Do an examination and if you still can’t detect anything, it’s time for a trip to the vet. As long as you follow proper prevention techniques, you can ensure there won’t be a relapse.