What Exactly Are Fleas?
Fleas are insects that have six legs and no wings, they can’t fly but can jump really far. Fleas affect dogs, cats, raccoons, and a few other hairy animals because they like warm environments. Once they find a suitable host, they usually stay there, and their lifespan is about 100 days. They lay 20-40 eggs a day during their adult stage. Fleas are different from ticks, which are arachnids (related to spiders) and have eight legs.
Fleas like to stay in shaded areas of yards, waiting for a dog to come around. Once they get on your dog and find a warm place to settle down, like your dog’s neck, ears, armpits or groin, they’ll start feeding and can stay for a few weeks.
Signs That Your Dog Has Fleas
Flea dirt. Fleas are quick to move around and can be quite hard to spot on your dog, especially brown or black dogs, but flea dirt is more easily visible. Flea dirt looks like black pepper – a fine, dark dirt that fleas leave behind on your dog’s skin or coat.
- Tip to check for flea dirt: put your dog on damp white towels and brush his coat. If your dog has fleas, there’s a good chance you’ll see flea dirt or the fleas themselves fall onto the white towels.
Skin changes such as redness or hair loss. Dogs’ skin are sensitive to flea bites, so keep a look out for these signs of a possible flea infestation.
Excessive scratching or biting. These are the typical reactions of a dog to flea bites. If you notice that he’s doing this more than usual, he may have fleas.
Ways To Protect Your Dog From Fleas
Flea combs are an effective way to get rid of fleas and any eggs they have laid. Use a fine-tooth flea comb once a week on your dog, combing from the top of his head down to his tail, with special attention to his warm areas (neck, ears, armpits and groin). Also, to reduce the discomfort for your dog, make sure his hair is not tangled before you comb it.
Baths are a very simple and effective way to get rid of most of the fleas residing on your dog. The fleas don’t latch onto your dog’s hair and merely lay on its skin, so when your dog is submerged in water the fleas will slide right off. A nice, warm bath & shampoo once a week will do the trick.
Lemon or orange juice – freshly squeezed, these citrus juices will repel those fleas. You can rub the juice itself into the coat of your dog, or you can mix it in with your dog’s shampoo (half cup dog shampoo, half cup fresh lemon/orange juice, 2 cups water). Both ways are effective and can be used once a week.
Apple Cider Vinegar will keep your dog’s skin on the acidic side and keep the fleas away. You can mix this in with their food (1/2 teaspoon per day per 25 pounds of bodyweight), or you can mix it in with water (1:1 proportions) and spray it onto their coat. Be careful when spraying though, as it stings when it comes into contact with broken (flea-bitten) skin. The DOGPWND recommends using the spray twice a week to prevent fleas, not if your dog already has fleas.
Coconut oil has a lot of health benefits for dogs, including getting rid of fleas. You can massage it directly onto his skin, or you can make a spray (1 tsp coconut oil in 1 cup of water), both methods are effective if used once a week. If you massage the oil directly into his skin, you can let it sit and absorb for a few minutes, comb him down to get any remaining fleas out, and then do a light rinsing so he’s not too greasy afterwards.
Flea collars – using the citrus juices or apple cider vinegar mentioned above, you can make a natural flea collar for your dog. Simply spray on a bandana and tie around your dog’s neck to prevent fleas from latching on. This works best if you put the bandana on before your dog heads outdoors, then you can remove it once he gets back in.
Important note: if you notice any allergic reactions in your dog after using any of these natural methods, discontinue immediately and see your local veterinarian. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can show up minutes to days after the fact, and may include a skin rash, difficulty breathing, vomiting or diarrhea. The recommended dosages above are merely guides, and it would be best to confer with your vet for the specific dosages for your dog. Also, we’ve intentionally left out any mention of essential oils and garlic as methods to get rid of fleas – there are conflicting data on the safety of these methods therefore the DOGPWND does not recommend them.
Ways To Protect Your Home From Fleas
Fleas will grow from eggs to adults in your yard, then prey on your furbabies, ultimately laying more eggs that will spread around your house. One essential tip is to get them where they grow – in your yard.
- Nematodes are a type of parasite found in soil. There are the good kinds and the bad kinds of this parasite, but the right kind of nematode will control pests in your yard, including fleas. These commercial nematodes are commonly found in garden stores.
- Mow your lawn regularly. Fleas are better able to grow near grass or piles of leaves, so disrupting their environment will disrupt their growth as well.
- Plants such as lemon balm, basil and mint secrete natural oils that repel fleas. Plant these around your yard for a natural flea control system.
Keeping the inside of your house unliveable for fleas is the extra step to ensure that fleas will get out and stay out. The methods below will have to be applied for a few weeks to get rid of all fleas and the eggs they’ve laid.
- Wash all your dogs’ beddings and blankets in hot water once a week. This will get rid of any fleas and eggs that will likely have found their way there. All sheets that fit into the dryer should be dried at maximum heat. if your dog sleeps on your bed, this should be applied to your sheets, too.
- Vacuum all areas of your house once a week, with special attention to all areas that your dog likes to snooze in. Dispose of the contents of the vacuum bags afterwards, preferably somewhere away from your house.
- Carpets are best avoided altogether, but if that’s not possible, then steam-cleaning all your carpets twice a year is the best alternative.