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Fleas and your dog

Fleas are a bit of a nuisance. They’re annoying for dog owners to deal with, irritating for your pet and, unfortunately, pretty common. No matter how clean you keep your home and pets, fleas can be a problem in even the cleanest environments.

Fleas are very small insects that can live on pets like dogs, cats and rabbits, but can also live in your home. They’re a type of external parasite that spread diseases, cause itchy skin for your furry friends and can bite humans and other animals. 

How do dogs get fleas?

Fleas are very common in outside environments and your pet can easily pick them up on walks from both other dogs, farmland or bushes. This means it’s easy for dogs to get fleas. Your precious pooch can also catch fleas from other pets in your home or garden.

While it’s extremely rare for humans to catch fleas themselves, we can pass them to our pets through our clothes and shoes. Fleas occur all year round, but they are more common in the summer months as they tend to die off naturally in colder temperatures. 

How to prevent your dog getting fleas

It’s handy to know about flea prevention for dogs. Here are some tips on how to reduce the risk of your dog catching fleas:

  • Use a good quality, vet recommended flea control. These come in both tablet form and a solution you apply to your dog’s neck
  • Wash and bathe them regularly – fleas don’t like warm soapy water
  • Frequently check for fleas by brushing with a flea comb
  • Keep your dog away from stray dogs or other dogs with fleas

How often should you flea your dog?

Your vets will be able to recommend how often to flea your dog. Depending on the treatment plan that you choose, you may need to administer anti-flea medicines monthly, bimonthly or quarterly. 

You’ll also be able to ask the vet how soon you can give your dog another flea treatment, as this depends on the type and style of flea prevention for dogs you use.

How do I know if my dog has fleas?

Fleas can be hard to spot with the naked eye as they appear as black specks but there are some telltale signs that your dog has fleas. Signs your dog or puppy has fleas include:

  • Scratching more than usual 
  • Bald patches or rough fur in places 
  • Wounds from flea bites
  • Infected skin, redness or irritation
  • An allergic skin reaction from flea bites 
  • They may have thickened skin around their ears 
  • They may be reaching round to nibble their back end 
  • Live fleas jumping or white eggs laid in their fur
  • Your dog may have anaemia if a large number of fleas are feeding off of them

How to check for fleas

You can check your pet for fleas using a tooth comb. Comb their fur above something white – like a piece of tissue paper. This can make it easier to see the fleas as they’ll stand out more against the white backdrop. If you notice any flea droppings fall onto the paper, add a couple of drops of water to them. If the droppings turn reddish brown, your dog is likely to have fleas.

How to get rid of fleas on dogs?

If you find that your dog has fleas, try not to panic. There are multiple steps that you can follow to treat them. Unfortunately, if your dog has fleas, so does your house. This means that you will need to deflea your furry friend as well as your home to remove the infestation.

How to treat your dog

To treat your dog, you can use a prescription product from your vets. While you can purchase over the counter treatments, they usually don’t contain as effective ingredients as vet recommended products.

If your dog seems to have developed any skin concerns as a result of the fleas, it’s wise to consult vet advice. You will also need to treat your dogs for worms too, as fleas can pass on a type of tapeworm onto dogs.

How to treat your house

It’s very important to treat your home too as only 5% of flea larvae, pupae and eggs live on your pet – the other 95% are in the environment. To treat your house, you can also buy household sprays from your vets. You must be careful which you choose though as some contain an ingredient that’s poisonous to cats, fish and birds. It’s also important to make sure you’re hoovering the floor and washing pet bedding and soft furnishings regularly as fleas lay eggs on these surfaces which then hatch and reinfect your dog. 

When to contact the vets

If you think that your dog has fleas you should contact your vet, as they will be able to recommend a flea treatment for you. While most pet insurance policies do not cover flea treatments as these are considered routine Sainsbury’s Bank dog insurance, provided by Pinnacle Insurance plc, will cover one treatment for fleas where it is used to treat a skin condition.

Do dog fleas bite humans?

Yes, dog fleas can bite but they cannot live on humans. There are 2,000 different types of fleas and just one can live on humans, so the likelihood of contracting fleas yourself is extremely unlikely. 

You may notice your dog has fleas if you see bite marks on your body, usually around your ankles. If you have a severe reaction or irritation, you need to contact your doctor.

Frequently asked questions 

How often do you flea a puppy?

The frequency that you need to flea a puppy depends on the treatment that you choose. In most cases, you will need to treat your puppy for fleas every four weeks. You should continue to do this all year round.

Can dogs get fleas from a cat?

Yes, unfortunately fleas can pass from your cat to your dog. Your dog can catch fleas from other dogs or cats that live in or outside your household. If one of the animals in your home catches fleas, all pets should have treatment.

Do I need to worry if my dog has fleas?

Fleas are common and there are lots of treatments available so you shouldn’t panic. However, fleas do need to be taken seriously and treated as quickly and thoroughly as possible. If left for a long time they can cause serious diseases in dogs and cats, like flea allergy dermatitis and anaemia.