Fleas on dogs are tiny insects (parasites) that cannot fly and feed on the blood of their victims. The easiest way your dog can catch fleas is from playing with another dog that has fleas. The most obvious sign a dog has fleas is obsessive, compulsive itching and scratching. It is not the flea bites that make your dog feel irritated and itchy, but their saliva. Their saliva contains a variety of harsh chemicals used to break down the skin so they can bite into the skin and feed on the blood.
Some dogs are highly allergic to the flea bites and their saliva and will develop a skin condition known as flea allergy dermatitis. This will be manifested as loss of their coat, and excessive skin irritations. If you own cats, they can also get the fleas and develop other skin diseases as well.
There is another scary reality to fleas. Statistics show that once a dog gets fleas, they get passed around in the environment in which he lives. Numbers indicate to us that only 5% of fleas in a home will stay on the dog. The remainder 95% of fleas will be on your clothes, on your couch, in the air.
Why is This Problematic?
The reason is because the majority of fleas contain other infectious diseases. The one of the biggest concern is the tape worm. This is an intestinal disease which in humans can grow up to 18 inches long. These worms attach to your stomach and feed off the contents inside your stomach. They then reproduce and continue doing so until you get rid of it. Ingesting a flea by accident can result into getting a tape worm infection. You can now see why getting rid of fleas on dogs is important both for your health and your dog’s sanity. On top of this, fleas can transfer a variety of other diseases including viral and bacterial. When it bites an infested host and then bites you, then you will risk catching all the diseases that host had.
You should put on some latex gloves and examine your dog for fleas, to see if he has any bites. If you see several swollen, raised spots with a single hole in the middle, it is a very strong sign that your dog may have fleas. If it is really serious, you should take your dog to a veterinary doctor. You may also notice hair loss patterns in your pet due to their excessive scratching.
There are many action plans against fighting fleas and we will discuss a complete guideline with a fighting strategy later on. First however, we must get to know more about these parasites.
In order for fleas to multiply and/or survive they need two things in the environment. First is humidity. The eggs need between 50 to 70% humidity in the air. Since they do not consume water, they must use the water in the air; otherwise they die of ‘thirst’. You will see how this statistic will become useful later on.
Next, they also need high temperatures. Anything above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) is considered optimal temperature for fleas to be able to complete their life cycles and digestion processes. Without these high temperatures, their digestion and life cycle is impaired and reduced. In fact, temperatures bellow 65 Fahrenheit (about 20 Celsius) will slowly kill fleas off. Low temperatures do not kill the eggs however and when it is warm, they may hatch if you do not use other methods as well.