Fleas are parasitic insects that can plague your pooch, living in his coat and feeding on his blood. These pests multiply quickly and plentifully, laying their eggs on the surface of his skin and coat, but not within the skin itself. In fact, once the fleas lay their eggs, those eggs quickly fall off of your pup and into his environment, where they develop into adults and look to infest more pups.
The Circle of Life
Fleas feed on your pup's blood and the saliva from their bites usually causes your pooch's skin to become itchy. These pests live in the environment and when they sense your pup nearby, they can jump onto his coat, where they live and multiply. Just one female flea can lay up to 40 eggs per day, according to the Purina website. These small, oval-shaped white eggs won't stay on your pup's coat or skin, but usually will fall off and settle into his environment. If the environment is warm, in about 10 days the eggs develop into larvae and then adults, who will jump onto your dog or another to start the cycle again.
Here an Egg, There an Egg, Everywhere an Egg
Unlike other external parasites, such as some species of mites, fleas don't burrow under your pup's skin, nor do they lay their eggs under the skin. Instead, the fleas themselves live on the surface of the skin, where you can see them if you comb through the hair on Fido's coat. These opportunistic pests typically lay their eggs while they are on the surface of your pup's skin. Because these eggs aren't sticky, they won't stay there for long and don't need the warmth of your pup to properly develop. In fact, the eggs can survive in the environment for months waiting for the weather to become warm and humid before they hatch.
Keeping the Fleas and Eggs at Bay
Fortunately for Fido, you can apply topical insecticides to his coat to kill the fleas he may have contracted. Some insecticides also will prevent any eggs that the fleas lay before they die from hatching. You apply medications like selamectin to your pup's coat, between his shoulder blades, once a month. These types of spot-on products, available through your vet, are generally more effective than older products like insecticidal dips, shampoos or powders, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. With regular use as directed by the manufacturer, these medications will prevent new fleas from infesting your pooch once the old ones are gone.
While dog-specific products will kill the fleas on your pup's coat and prevent any new eggs that they lay from hatching, they won't kill the eggs, larvae or adult fleas remaining in his environment. Regular vacuuming, steam cleaning and washing Fido's bedding should help to get rid of any of the pests lingering in the environment. Immediately discard your vacuum bag after cleaning to get rid of the insects that you vacuum up. In severe infestations, you may need to consult with a professional exterminator to spray both the inside and outside of your home with insecticides to kill those pesky fleas.
- petMD: Fleas on Dogs and What You Can Do About Them
- Vetstream: Fleas and What to do About Them
- American Animal Hospital Association: External and Internal Parasites
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Fleas
- WebMD: Dog Ticks and Fleas Q&A
- Companion Animal Parasite Council: Fleas
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.