As part of the continuing pets medicine series here at the unProfessional Dog training online school I now want to take two part look at fleas and Dogs. In this first post we will learn a little about the flea, what it actually is and what effects it can have on our Dogs.
In the next post we will take a look at the myriad different ways there are to either treat or prevent the humble flea from causing misery to our beloved bone munchers.
What is a flea?
According to Wikipedia the
Flea is the common name for insects of the order Siphonaptera which are wingless insects whose mouthparts are adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood.
They are a parasite that lives by feeding off the blood of mammals and birds.
As we are only concerned with the Dog flea here, or Ctenocephalides canis I won’t list the myriad other classifications or problems they can cause. We only need to know about fleas and Dogs here at the Doggie social club.
Fleas can jump up to seven inches vertically and thirteeen inches horizontally, which is approx 200 times their size. They are perfectly adapted for easily moving through the fur of our animals and have a tubelike mouth part perfectly adapted for sucking blood.
Their bodies are extremely hard so Dog scratching does little to harm them. If you have ever tried to kill one between your fingers (I haven’t) then aparently it is very difficult to do so.
Fleas lay tiny eggs and the larvae can feed on both blood and the droppings of adult fleas (gross).
How Dog Fleas Live And Why We Must EXTERMINATE
The lifecycle of the Dog flea, as with all fleas, is three staged. Larva, pupa, and adulthood.
Fleas cannot reproduce until after they have fed on blood. The female then lays up to 20 or so eggs which are a perfect shape for getting caught in the Dogs fur (where they are laid), but are also perfectly formed for hiding in crevices and bedding where are Dogs go for a little rest.
Two weeks later the fleas will have hatched but it can be only a matter of days. Blind but ready to feed they can eat any organic matter they find. After a few more weeks they will have passed through three larval stages and will build a coccon. Another few weeks and they can emerge as adult Dog fleas.
If the conditions are not right or the weather too cold they can stay dormant in their cocoon until the conditions are right. It can be vibrations, heat or carbon dioxide that triggers them to emerge as adults.
Once the adults emerge they need blood fast. This is all they feed on and must find it within a week.
As an aside is anyone else thinking VAMPIREZ?
If they find food they can then wait months before needing to feed again although if they have found a home on our Dogs this will be happening rather continuously.
The flea cycle can be from a few weeks from start to finish to quite a few months. Females can lay a very large quantity of eggs which means if they have the right conditions, you know, nice warm bedding, central heating, all the things lots of us (well, not me) have.
How Fleas Effect Our Dogs
Fleas on Dogs effect them in much the same way they do any of their hosts. When they feed on our Dogs blood they make a small puncture wound which usually goes red around it. Usually it is small clusters that happen as the fleas feed repeatedly.
For some Dogs there is a very real allergic reaction to the saliva that comes into contact with the skin as they feed. Some Dogs suffer very strong allergic reactions and is why there are so many flea treatments for Dogs on the market.
Fleas can lead to hair loss from scratching but can also cause serious problems to the Dogs skin. Many Dogs get so distracted by the reaction they get that they will gnaw an area until it is red raw and the fur has gone. This is quite common and is known as flea allergy dermatitis. This gnawing and continual scratching will simply further compound the problem and quite often veterinary intervention is then required.
In the next post we will look at the many different ways we can combat fleas both on our Dogs and in the home. Out of all the many problems our Dogs face there are actually some very effective natural flea remedies that we can use. A lot of this series of pet medicines are based around using chemical ingredients that many of us are loathe to use unless we really need to. I will be looking at both the guaranteed chemical solutions and a more natural approach to getting rid of fleas on our Dogs.
May the Doggie Force be with you all.