Fleas are very small insects that can live on a dog’s skin and feed on a dog’s blood supply much like a tick. The average flea is one to two millimeters in length, and they have long legs that allow them to jump as far as eighty times the length of their body. Peak flea season is late summer but can be year-round in warm, tropical climates. Fleas prefer shaded and sandy areas in your yard but can jump on our clothing and our pets, and they can easily infest carpeting and furniture in our homes.
The lifespan of an adult flea is seven to fourteen days, but when in the egg phase, eggs can be dormant in carpets and upholstery for up to nine months. Factors like heat and humidity can bring latent eggs out of dormancy, so when you move into a new home and your dog walks across an egg-laden carpet, it can trigger the eggs to hatch. Adult female fleas can start laying eggs within twenty-four hours of their first blood meal, and they can lay forty to fifty eggs per day.
Fleas can transmit diseases to your dog. Through flea bites, bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause infection. If your dog has this kind of infection, then he may appear lethargic and have a fever. Heavy flea infestations can result in severe blood loss, aka anemia. Fleas can also carry tapeworm, so if your dog bites at his skin and ingests a flea, then he can become infected with tapeworms. Flea tapeworms shed small segments that look like grains of rice. If you see these in your dog’s feces, then contact your veterinarian for deworming recommendations.
Dogs can develop allergies to flea saliva, and sometimes one bite from one flea is all it takes to cause an allergic reaction. Flea allergic dogs can have very red, itchy skin and they can lose hair. The most common area for flea bite infections is over the lower back near the base of the tail. Your veterinarian may be able to prescribe medications to help with itching, and CBD oil can help with mild inflammation.