By Karen Geissert, D.V.M.
Q: My dog has been scratching a lot and I found little black particles on his skin.
Does he have fleas?
A: Yes, your dog may have a flea infestation. Fleas travel between the hair on your pet’s skin and bite, taking a blood meal. In the last few years, we have been seeing an increase in flea infestation on our dog and cat patients from July through November. Fleas particularly thrive in hot humid weather conditions.
Prevention is key to winning the battle against fleas. Monthly application of a flea/tick topical product should prevent fleas from surviving on your pet. These products spread over the skin surface and settle into the hair follicles. They provide a month of protection if properly applied. Many owners of indoor cats assume that their pets are not at risk of becoming infested with fleas. However, fleas can be brought into the home by another pet or can hitchhike indoors on clothing.
If you pet becomes infested with fleas, several steps should be taken immediately.
First apply a topical flea/tick product to your pet to kill the adult fleas, then work to rid the flea eggs, larvae, and pupae from your home. Wash your pet’s bedding in hot soapy water, vacuum your home thoroughly including furniture, carpets and other floor surfaces, and discard the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag. Pesticide sprays and foggers are available to treat your home. The best products contain a flea hormone regulator that arrests the next stage of flea development.
Continual flea bites can cause your pet to eventually become anemic from blood loss besides the constant irritation for your pet. Some pets become allergic to the flea saliva and show signs of flea bite dermatitis. If your pet continues to be itchy after you no longer find any fleas, he may need treatment by your veterinarian to reduce the allergic symptoms. As with most medical conditions, proper diagnosis and treatment will help your pet return to normal quickly.