You already know that fleas are uncomfortable for your dog, causing all sorts of scratching, biting and licking. For some dogs, the risk of flea bites is more serious, causing painful skin conditions and dangerous illnesses. Talk to your veterinarian about preventing and eliminating these pests to help keep your pal comfortable and healthy.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common skin disease for dogs in the United States. It starts when your pet becomes sensitive to the saliva in flea bites, a reaction that may begin immediately or develop over time. The symptoms may include red and irritated skin, hair loss, scabbing and hot spots, areas that your dog continually bites and scratches. Eliminating the infestation is the best way to treat this allergy, a process that can take two to three months due to the life cycle of the flea.
Young puppies, small dogs and dogs with severe flea infestations may suffer from parasitic anemia, whereby the fleas cause dangerous amounts of blood loss. The symptoms may include pale gums, lethargy and a cool body temperature. The condition can be caused by either insufficient red blood cells or insufficient iron in the blood. You should consult your vet if you suspect your dog has anemia, as the blood loss may be dangerous in severe cases.
Fleas have the potential to transmit illnesses. Tapeworms, parasites that live in dogs' digestive tracts, can pass through flea bites. Typhus, spotted fever and cat scratch disease, all of which can affect humans as well, are also often transmitted by fleas. Canine bartonellosis, a disease that may be asymptomatic or may spur a serious condition that causes heart arrhythmia, arthritis and heart inflammation, also passes through these pests.
Identifying and Eliminating Fleas
Fleas have a thin, flattened body that's generally between 2 millimeters and 10 millimeters long, making them hard to spot in your pet's fur. Look for fleas around your dog's head, the base of his tail and his abdomen, where they are easier to spot. Flea dirt and excessive scratching are also signs of infestation. Various products exist on the retail market to help eliminate these parasites, including shampoos, powders, sprays, tablets and topicals. You should regularly wash your dog's bedding and vacuum carpets and furniture cushions to help overcome an outbreak.
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