Dealing with fleas is one of the few downsides of dog ownership. Fleas can suck up about 15 times their weight in blood, and the females can lay up to 50 eggs a day. If your dog is the designated host, this can result in significant discomfort that can potentially be life threatening. Learning to recognize the signs of fleas early on is essential so you can prevent the problem from worsening.
Recognize Physical Characteristics
The bug you found on your pet companion is most likely a flea if he's reddish-brown and about 1/8 inch long. You're likely to find him in thinly haired areas, such as the inside of your dog's legs and her stomach. With a magnifying glass you might be able to see that this tiny pest has a compressed abdomen, long rear legs that are ideal for jumping and a smooth body that allows him to easily maneuver through your dog's hair.
Look for Excrement, Eggs and Larvae
If the bug on your furry pal was a flea, you might find flea dirt, or flea feces, on your dog's coat. Combing your dog with a flea comb or brushing her while she's standing on a white piece of paper can help you discover the feces, which resemble specks of black pepper or grains of sand. In areas where your dog roams, there might also be flea larvae present, which resemble 3/16-inch-long worms, and flea eggs, which are white, oval and about 1/32 inches long. A handheld magnifying glass can help you detect these.
Detect Behavioral Changes
Paying attention to your dog's behavior can also help you detect fleas. You might notice that your pet companion appears more nervous than normal, and is constantly scratching, biting or liking herself. This is triggered by the protein in the flea's saliva that's released when he bites your dog. Bumps and red pimples might also appear on your dog's skin and her excessive licking can result in dry skin and hair loss.
Diagnose Flea-Related Health Conditions
Health conditions, such as anemia and tapeworms, might be an indication that your dog has fleas. Signs of anemia, which is especially dangerous in puppies, can include listlessness, pale gums and a cold body temperature. Tapeworms occur when your dog ingests an infected flea. Although often harmless, if there's many tapeworms present, it can result in weight loss, have a debilitating effect and the irritation can make your dog scoot her butt on the floor. Consulting a veterinarian is best for a diagnosis and proper treatment.
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.