Find Out About: Fleas in Dogs

Scratching can be a symptom of fleas

Scratching can be a symptom of fleas

What are Fleas?

Fleas belong to the classification of insects known as Siphonaptera. Scientists have identified over 2,000 different species. The wingless creatures measure anywhere from 1/16 of an inch to 1/8 of an inch (1.5 to 3.3 millimeters) in length and have no eyes. Long, hind legs propel fleas to distances ranging 7 to 13 inches (18 centimeters to 33 centimeters) when they jump. Usually dark in color, fleas have oral anatomy that enables skin piercing and blood retrieval.

Adult fleas reproduce asexually by laying around 20 eggs at one time that hatch in approximately two days. Not attached to the host, the eggs commonly fall onto clothing, furniture or other surroundings. The bristle covered worm like larvae cannot procure blood but have mouths capable of chewing and commonly feed off organic matter found on the host or the fecal matter of adult fleas.

Fleabites generally create itching or a slight stinging sensation that prompts immediate reactions by the host that include biting, pecking, scratching or slapping the affected area. Some animals and people develop allergic reactions to flea saliva. By carrying bacteria, viruses and other opportunistic microscopic organisms, fleas contribute to a number of diseases that include rickettsia, tapeworms and typhus.

How Do You Get Fleas?

Animals and people easily become living hosts for fleas by coming within close proximity of animals experiencing an infestation. Infested animals might also venture into a home or yard leaving behind adult fleas or a collection of eggs. The reinfestation in a new environment begins.

How do I know If My Dog Has Fleas

Animals constantly scratching, biting or otherwise appearing annoyed may be exhibiting the signs of flea infestation. Looking closely at the skin, pet owners often find small mosquito bite like raised areas. The host usually has two or more bites in a cluster. Not unlike mosquito bites, the area often remains irritated over several days encouraging more tissue damage from scratching. The constant irritation and attempts at relief may cause hair loss in these areas. Severe infestations left untreated may lead to anemic conditions. Animals may begin exhibiting symptoms of disease processes created by the microbes hitching rides on fleas.


As the lifecycle of fleas last six months, topical formulations and flea shampoos require reapplication every four to six months or as recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions. Home infestations require a greater deal of work and ingenuity. Scientists reveal that optimal flea environments include temperatures of at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit or greater and humidity levels of around 50 percent.

Altering these factors combined with vacuuming eliminates up to 96 percent of fleas. Wash clothing and bedding in hot water. While there are many fog and spray insecticides available, these preparations often pose a health risk for animals and humans. In yards, fleas find areas away from the sun and elements, which means hiding in tall grass, under shrubs or porches. Keep lawns mowed and use insecticides under greenery and porches.

Prevention remains the best medicine by using flea collars or topical chemical preparations that create an unpleasant environment and deters fleas from staying around. Prevention also spares pet owners from investing time and money when attempting infestation eradication.