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Does Your Dog Have Fleas?

This article helps uncover the truth behind the excessive scratching of your dog and clears the doubts about whether it is having fleas or ticks.
DogAppy Staff
Fleas in Dogs
Most of the time, you may observe small, black animals jumping on your pet's fur. Other than that, the usual scratching, biting, and licking indicates the presence of dog fleas. To be sure the tiny animal jumping around over your pet's body is a flea, you need to make some observations.
Fleas are tiny insects, just 1/16 to 1/8 inch long. They are red-brown in color and have three pairs of legs. If you can observe them really closely, you will find that the last pair of legs is larger than the other two pairs. They have laterally-flat bodies covered with an exoskeleton. This exoskeleton is made up of a shining and hard chitin. This chitin helps the flea travel smoothly through the dog's body without the fear of being squashed. Fleas are wingless insects that are high jump experts.
If you are not able to catch hold of a flea to observe the above physical characteristics, there are other methods. You can brush your pet's coat with a fine-toothed flea comb during the grooming sessions. As the teeth of the comb are too close together, the fleas get stuck in between. So, when you pull out the comb, you will observe the flat-bodied insects stuck to the comb teeth.
Flea dirt is actually flea feces. The small, black or brownish powdery substance stuck to your dog's fur is flea dirt. Collect this dirt and place it on a wet tissue paper. The color will turn reddish-brown, like blood. This is because the black or brown flea dirt is actually dried blood passed out as feces by the fleas.
In order to differentiate between fleas and ticks, you need to observe the dog's skin and hair closely. If you observe black round spots on the dog's skin, it probably means that your dog has ticks. You need to be extra careful as ticks are carriers of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Ticks are really small in size and wait in bushes and grasses for their next victim. They can go for a year without food, therefore waiting for an unsuspecting dog is never a problem. Once they jump onto their victim, they start sucking blood. Within 24 to 48 hours, they become fully-engorged with blood and drop off their host animal. It's not just one tick, but about 12 to 18 ticks who stick to the dog's skin at a time. The dog becomes extremely restless and continues to scratch a lot. There is a specific way of removing ticks from dogs. It involves removal of the tick without leaving its mouth parts embedded into the skin, as this can lead to further dog health problems.
Fleas can infect dogs when they come in contact with other infected dogs and animals. Once fleas infect your dog, they begin their lifecycle. The eggs, larvae, pupae do not live on the dog, but drop off to the ground. Most pupae are actually present in the carpet or those areas frequented by the dog. These can include his bed, food bowl, the base of a furniture, etc. When these pupae fully develop into adult fleas, they get carried to the dog's body through air currents, touch, and visual stimuli. As the host moves nearer, the flea gets ready to jump onto it. Therefore, only carrying out flea treatment of the dog is not enough. One needs to carry out flea treatment of the house as well. This will cause all the pupae, larvae, and eggs to be eliminated, making your home flea-proof.
If you are wondering whether every dog has fleas, then the answer is no. Not all dogs have fleas all the time. Dogs can get infected with fleas if they come in contact with other dogs, cats, or animals with fleas. If your dog never comes into contact with fleas, there are chances that your house won't be infected with eggs or pupae. Thus, your dog will remain flea-free. Regular dog grooming will ensure flea control. Bathe your dog with a good flea shampoo and leave it on till it kills all the fleas. Good care will ensure that your dog remains free of fleas. If you live in an area with tick infestation, it would be a good idea to keep your dog indoors. When he comes home from his walk, immediately look for signs of any ticks and give him a good wash. You can ask a dog groomer or veterinarian regarding how to get rid of ticks.
A closer examination will help you differentiate between the two ectoparasites. Also, a veterinarian will be able to tell you what precautionary measures need to be taken to prevent any disease that may arise due to flea or tick bite. He will also be able to provide flea treatment.