The Flea Circus: Flea Treatment for Dogs
Fleas can be a big problem for dogs. For dogs with Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), there doesn’t even have to be an infestation for the itch to get out of hand – a single bite can leave them scratching for days.
How dogs become home to a flea circus
Fleas can be anywhere; they are on other dogs, and they hang out in the environment both indoors and outdoors. Fleas are jumpers and can easily get onto your dog from the ground or a nearby blade of grass.
Hungry adult fleas attach themselves to your dog and take a blood meal. Immediately afterwards, male and female fleas mate. The female flea lays her eggs on the dog’s coat. As the dog walks through the house or yard, the flea eggs fall off. The eggs hatch into squirming larvae (maggots) and burrow deep into the carpet, sofa, grass, flower bed – or YOUR bed. The larvae spin a cocoon and eventually a new adult flea emerges.
Shutting down the circus with flea treatments
Luckily, there are many effective flea products available to shut down the flea circus. You can talk to your veterinarian and decide which of the following products are best for you and your dog. Here are some options that are available:
Topical flea and tick medicine. Most spot-on topical liquids provide 30 days of adult flea kill, but not all of them affect the eggs or larvae. Follow the guidelines on application carefully. The liquid must reach the skin surface and disseminate over the body through the fatty skin layer to work properly. Some spot on topical have bathing restrictions, too.
Oral medications. There are three basic types of oral products available. The first to be discovered works by interrupting the flea life cycle. This drug prevents egg hatching and larval molting so the number of emerging adult fleas is reduced. Pet owners may still notice an occasional flea, but that one flea should stay just one flea — meaning you shouldn’t have an environmental infestation. The second type of medication kills adult fleas very quickly, but only lasts for about 24 hours. The third drug also kills adult fleas, but it lasts for 30 days. Some of these oral drugs must be given with food to be most effective.
Flea shampoos and dips. Bathing and dipping dogs for fleas is not always an easy task. Besides being messy, flea shampoos and dips do not have the killing power or longevity of action that oral or topical preparations have. Your best bet is to spend your money more wisely on one of the other two options.
Environmental treatment. For severe infestations of the house or yard, pet owners should consult a professional exterminator. The flea life cycle is about 3-4 weeks long, so monthly home and yard treatments may be necessary in severe cases in order to keep the flea circus off your property.
*Caution: if you have other types of pets, you should never use a product on one species that is labeled for another! Using a product made for dogs can make cats very sick, for example.
Seasonal flea circus tricks
While flea control can be seasonal in the colder or drier areas of the country, some climates require year-round efforts. If you live in a warm, humid area, you need to provide flea protection for your dog all year long. To be safe, keep the circus out of your yard and off your dog by implementing consistent flea control. Your best friend will be happy you did!