Canine Flea Infestations
The flea is a common problem for dogs as well as their owners. As if flea bites aren’t bad enough, some pets are “flea allergic” and develop severe itching with even trivial infestations of fleas. This occurs because the animal becomes hypersensitive to the antigens in flea saliva.
The itching component to flea allergy can be treated with antihistamines or even steroids (prescribed by your veterinarian) but the best approach is to kill the flea and prevent its return. Like all parasites, fleas pose a health-hazard to your pet (and to you), and can make him miserable. These worrisome pests can be treated and prevented.
Fleabite hypersensitivity or “flea allergy” can occur in any breed with the average age of first occurrence being three to six years. There appears to be no sex predilection. Fleas are typically seasonal in Northern climates and non-seasonal (year-round) in Southern climates.
What to Watch For
Diagnosis of Flea Infestation in Dogs
Diagnostic tests may not be needed to recognize fleas but they may be important to determine if flea-associated illness is occurring. Tests may include:
Treatment of Flea Infestation in Dogs
Treatment for fleas may be dependent on the following: the degree of infestation; whether you have both cats and dogs; the time of the year; area of exposure (yard vs. park); and whether your pet has an allergy to the fleas.
Recommendations may include the following:
Home Care and Prevention
Optimal treatment for your pet requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up is important especially in cases of flea allergic pets. Make sure to administer all veterinary prescribed medications and follow preventative recommendations.
Be certain to contact your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems treating your pet or the environment. Some microscopic eggs can live in the environment like the yard for weeks to months and cause re-infection. If your yard has a severe infestation, use products recommended by your veterinarian.
Minimize roaming in places like parks and fields where exposure and infection are possible. Minimize contact with rabbits, rodents and/or fleas to minimize exposure to tapeworms.
Monitor all pets in your household for evidence of fleas on a regular basis. Use a flea comb to check for fleas. A flea comb is a comb with very fine teeth that will catch the flea as you comb, giving you evidence of its presence.
Flea prevention is recommended when there is a reasonable chance of flea infestation or in a flea-allergic pet living in an area infested by fleas. Products, such as Program® (lufenuron), are popular for this purpose; they prevent development of fleas that attack your pet. With few exceptions, these are far more effective than most collars or tags.
In-Depth Information on Flea Infestation in Dogs
Below is some in-depth information on the diagnosis and treatment of flea infestations in dogs.
Diagnosis In-depth of Canine Flea Infestation
Fleas are a common cause of itching and scratching in dogs; however, other medical problems can lead to similar symptoms.
Diagnostic tests are often performed to confirm the diagnosis of fleas and exclude other diseases that may cause similar symptoms. A complete medical history can often help differentiate fleas from other causes of skin disease. Be prepared to answer the following questions:
In addition to a medical history, a complete physical examination will be performed, including a thorough examination of the skin.
Additional tests may include:
Treatment In-depth of Canine Flea Infestation
Treatments for fleas will depend on the following: