A little dog scratching itself

Nearly all dog owners complain that their pets fall prey to a flea attack at some point of time or the other. And why not? With nearly 2,000 species and subspecies to their credit, fleas thrive in warm, humid environments, feeding happily on the blood of their hosts. 

It is like living in America, eventually the complicated and horrendous tax code is going to get you and you are going to have to deal with the IRS but let’s get back on topic.

Moreover, their march continues to be unstoppable. Dogs are attacked mostly by the cat flea, the biological name of which is Ctenocephalides felis and this is either black or a dark chocolate brown in color, measuring between one and three millimeters in length.

What makes dogs prone to fleas?

The surprising thing about fleas is that they are greatly nimble when it comes to host searching. In fact, research shows that they are capable of jumping 10,000 times in a row – the length of 3 football fields! Their 3 pairs of legs make them excellent jumpers and they can bounce to up to two feet, while the body which is laterally flattened allows for quick movement within the dog’s coat.

The complete life cycle of the Ctenocephalides felis ranges between 16 days to 21 months, depending entirely on environmental conditions. These are most found most commonly on the dog’s abdomen, the tail base, and also the head. Heavy infestations, however, lead to fleas thriving anywhere on the canine’s body. Their feeding schedule is once daily or once in two days and they stick to their host during the interim period.

This is why you need to pay attention to your dog and attack fleas. Do not call them the JV team and ignore them like we did to ISIS in 2013 and so on, attack them. Take them serious! Like the Autobots take the Decepticons serious in Transformers. You are Bumblebee and the fleas are Ravage from Revenge of the Fallen and we all know what happened to Ravage!

Flea symptoms in dogs

The most dangerous thing about a flea attack is that initially no symptoms can be seen and the dog appears to be absolutely normal. It’s only when they start multiplying and the infestation is heavy that the dog starts growing uneasy and scratches, licks or bites its skin excessively because of acute itching. Flea droppings, also called flea dirt appear on the coat and flea eggs too, can be seen in the kennel or the dog’s immediate living environment.

In acute cases, allergic dermatitis occurs and this may lead to mange, a highly contagious disease with angry, red rashes and patches of hair falling off the dog’s coat.

There is also excessive hair loss, scabs, hot spots and the dog’s gums too, begin to pale. Flea infection may also lead to the formation of tapeworms in the dog’s abdomen which may lead to a dreaded disease called neurocystosarcosis and prove fatal for the animal. Moreover, acute attacks may also lead to anemia or bloodlessness that makes the dog lethargic and weak.

Complications pertaining to fleas

Fleas are able to consume 15 times their own body weight in blood. This leads to a significant amount of blood loss in their host over time and may prove particularly problematic in the case of young dogs or puppies, because an inadequate red blood cell count is usually life-threatening to some dogs. Parasitic anemia shows by way of pale gums, lower body temperature and general listlessness.

In dogs with a heightened sensitivity to flea saliva, a single flea bite can cause an acutely allergic reaction. This is called flea allergy dermatitis and leads to intense itching and discomfort for the dog. The typical symptoms are reddened skin, generalized hair loss, scabs & hot spots as also other types of dermatological infections. This is more commonly seen in dogs living in warm and humid climates, because fleas ideally thrive at temperatures ranging between 65 and 80 F. Flea attack is also common to those dogs which spend a fabulous deal of time outdoors.


As soon as you are convinced that your dog has fleas, get in touch with your veterinarian immediately. He will not only confirm the diagnosis but suggest appropriate options for treatment also. This is vital as you need to tailor your pet’s treatment to your and his individual environment, since certain anti-flea combination products can be toxic. Your veterinarian will also suggest prevention measures for the future.

Flea treatment should not be confined to the dog itself but to its surrounding environment as well. The choice of the anti-flea product is important depending upon the degree and intensity of the attack. Common treatment options are topical liquid treatments which may be applied all over the body, sprays, shampoos and powders that eliminate both adult fleas and eggs.

These, however, can vary efficacy wise. You could also ask you vet to give special prescription products, which are not only more effective but often safer than most over-the-counter products. A recent development is the flea collar which the dog can be made to wear all the time and which is known to keep fleas away.

An integral part of the anti-flea drive is to thoroughly clean out the house, including all bedding, and upholstery. Get rid of all vacuum bags and acute cases call for regular pest control by way of spraying or fogging, which may require temporary evacuation from the house.

Preventing a flea attack

Comb your dog with a specially designed, fine-toothed flea comb every day and wash his bedding using a strong disinfectant once every week. This will go a long way in controlling flea infestation. Also, make it a point to treat your yard as thoroughly as you clean your home. Focus on the shady areas, where fleas generally tend to breed and live, using strong and effective insecticides or nematodes or even microscopic worms that eat up or kill flea larvae.

It pays to remember always that an acute flea attack can be dangerous and may even prove fatal for the dog. It leads to severe anemia in canines and even temporary blindness if not detected early and treated. Moreover, they tend to be all over the place and may even affect humans living in the same environment.  

They are often seen crawling on curtains and walls and may assume an epidemic form if not destroyed fully. Your dog here is just a carrier for which you are also likely to suffer some dire consequences if you don’t take the appropriate steps. Remember, this is one enemy that deserves no mercy and needs to be destroyed completely.