The sky is blue … water is wet … and fleas love dogs! Why do fleas love our pets so much? The warmth of their bodies, the deep lush fur for hiding and egg-laying, and the plentiful opportunity for meals make dogs and cats the ideal host for those pesky external parasites.
Where Do Fleas Come From?
Fleas are naturally found in the outdoor environment, especially areas that boast humid, temperate, and shady climates (I’m looking at you Florida, the southern and gulf coast states, and you too California!). Even if you don’t live in one of these flea hotspots, you’re not off the hook! Fleas can thrive virtually everywhere — including indoors. Beachgoers, dog park aficionados, and road-tripping pets frolicking in environments all over the country are especially at risk for bringing them back home, but that’s not all of the ugly truth. While fleas thrive and perpetuate on wild and outdoor animals and in locations where animals congregate, they can also hitch a ride on our pets during outdoor jaunts. Fleas are — wait for it — quite “smart,” and have even adapted to find their way indoors via humans, as we bring their tiny eggs inside on our shoes, clothing, and personal items. Fleas and skin problems resulting from fleas are so common that veterinarians will often incorporate the question, “is your dog on a monthly prescription-strength flea control product currently?” for every dog that is itchy or is being assessed for skin problems.
Does My Pet Need Flea Protection?
Our veterinarians are constantly fielding questions – and addressing some common misconceptions – about fleas …
My dog stays primarily indoors so he does not need flea prevention, is this true?
My dogs are on flea prevention monthly but my indoor cats don’t need it because they never go outdoors, right?
Aren’t fleas only a problem in the warmer summer months?
I don’t SEE fleas on my dog so this cannot be a flea problem, correct?
First things first, if your dog is a dog, and your cat is a cat, fleas have their feelers out for them! Fleas have devised some sort of incredible evolutionary-arthropod-intelligence to perpetuate their species and seek out your pet’s fur, whether they live entirely indoors, or just step out onto the balcony for a grass patch potty break (which, I might add, we do encourage taking your pup for multiple daily outdoor walks in the environment for their mental and physical well-being!). Our veterinarians recommend that ALL PETS in the household (indoor cats included) be given a prescription-strength flea control all year long, as recommended by your family veterinarian and based on your local flea behavior.
We established earlier that fleas tend to thrive in warmer, more humid temperatures and that flea allergies tend to flare during the summer months. However, your veterinarians see the fallout from fleas all year long — especially since fleas can create a perfect thriving life cycle inside your home too, no matter what the weather is outdoors! Yes, that is right: fleas share our love for 75-degree environments, and once they find their way inside your home and feed on your pets, one female flea can produce 50+ eggs per day! With the complete flea life cycle from egg to adult-only taking about 3 weeks in its entirety, you can imagine how quickly your home’s flea population can explode into a full-fledged flea infestation!
Evidence of Fleas
So now this brings us to the question: How do I know if my dog has fleas? Another concept that seems to surprise Pet Parents is that just because you don’t SEE fleas, does not mean they are not there, wreaking havoc on your dog’s skin and coat! WHAT!? Yes!!! Fleas are small, clever, and FAST! Dogs are even faster at locating them, chewing them off, and destroying the evidence. A flea allergy in dogs (a severe allergic reaction to the protein in flea saliva) causes them to be even faster at ridding their body of fleas due to the intense skin reaction that they are feeling from even just one flea bite.
Veterinarians are well trained in looking for the clues that fleas leave behind; namely examining the patterns of hair loss and irritation on a dog’s coat and skin, evaluating the areas where your dog is itching most, finding sneaky fleas with our magical flea combs, and identifying tapeworms in a fecal sample (the result of fleas swallowed by an infested dog). In combination with all of these signs, the biggest hint of all is the usage or absence of monthly prescription-strength flea prevention! So, if you’re looking for how to get rid of fleas on dogs, the first step is a flea prevention medication.
Talk to a Trusted Vet
If you find yourself and your pup struggling with a potential flea infestation, you have come to the right place! The collective years of experience of our AskVet Veterinarians have us ready to tackle all of your flea queries and troubleshoot all potential causes of your dog’s skin issues. No dog or cat should suffer from a flea-related skin problem with all of the safe and effective products at our fingertips today. With the assistance of flea product recommendations by your family vet, we can help get your pet on track for an external parasite-free long and happy life!
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Alexa Waltz, DVM
Dr. Waltz was raised near the beaches of Southern California but has spent her adult life living all over the beautiful United States while serving in the military and as a military spouse. She left California for the first time to pursue a career as a veterinarian at Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine and graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2006. She was accepted into the US Army Health Professionals Scholarship Program during vet school and upon graduation spent her military years as a veterinarian in San Diego working for the US Marine Corps and US Navy Military Working Dog programs as well as caring for pets of service members. After her military service, she became a civilian veterinarian and continued as a small animal general practitioner at clinics in California, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Maryland. Dr Waltz loves to see her “in person” patients just as much as communicating with and assisting pet parents virtually on AskVet. Dr Waltz is also a Mom to 3 humans, 2 guinea pigs, and 1 Australian Shepherd and in her spare time she loves traveling, adventures, exercising, and doing just about anything out in nature!