Fleas on Dogs and the Illnesses Those Buggers Cause!

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illustration of itchy pup with dog fleas

Fleas on dogs can pose more of a problem than the occasional scratch behind the ears. Flea infestations can make life miserable. For both your dog and the rest of your family.

As a responsible pet owner, it is up to you to educate yourself about this everyday pest, and what you can do to prevent a flea infestation from taking hold in your home.

There’s More to Fleas Than Itches the Skin!

You would be hard-pressed to find a pet owner that hasn’t dealt with some or other flea issue in their lifetime. Fleas are everywhere! Your dog can pick up fleas from walking in the park, chilling in their own backyard, or by encountering other flea-ridden mammals.

Over and above the annoying itchiness that flea bites can cause, fleas can also spread diseases and other parasites to your pooch/es. Fleas live for two to three months but can live as long as 18 months if conditions are ideal.

The Best Way to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs? Prevention is Better Than a Cure!

It is almost impossible to avoid fleas altogether. They are anywhere and everywhere! Therefore, it is important to regularly treat your pets with an efficient flea preventive.

If possible, choose a product that kills fleas on contact with your dog, so that fleas do not have to bite your dog to die. Keep your dog’s bedding and favorite lounging spots clean and flea-free.

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Diseases and Illnesses Caused by Fleas That Can Be Life Threatening!

If a flea infestation goes unchecked, it can lead to severe and devastating effects. Conditions such as flea-bite anemia, Bartonellosis, and tapeworm infection are all possible consequences of fleas. Beyond the obvious discomfort, these conditions can cause serious illness.

The Little Bloodsuckers Can Cause Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which there is a deficiency of red blood cells or of the hemoglobin in the red blood cells. Anemia results in weakness, tiredness, and paleness.

As mammals, we and our furry friends require a certain number of red blood cells in our bodies to stay healthy and energetic. If we suffer the loss of too much blood, we can become anemic.

Should you spot one flea on your pooch, chances are that there are tens, even hundreds, more. If your pup is infested with a large population of fleas, all taking regular blood meals, your pooch will become anemic.

This is a serious condition, especially in puppies and smaller dogs as they have a smaller blood volume. Sick and elderly dogs are also more dramatically affected by flea-bite anemia as their bodies cannot produce blood cells as rapidly as healthy dogs can.

Symptoms of flea-bite anemia include weakness, pale gums, lethargy, and/or rapid breathing. Anemia should quickly be addressed through veterinary care.

Itchy, Irritating and Sore: Flea Allergy Dermatitis 

When fleas bite through your pupper’s skin, they leave some saliva behind. This saliva can cause an allergic reaction in some dogs. These dogs experience severe discomfort even from just one flea bite. This is known as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD).

Symptoms of FAD include extreme scratching, licking, or biting around the backside, tail, or groin areas. If FAD goes unchecked, it can cause painful sores and bacterial skin infections (“hotspots”).

If you suspect that your hound has FAD, take them to the vet. FAD is easily diagnosable with a simple intradermal skin test.

image of dog flea

Eggs in Fleas, Fleas in Dogs: Enter the Tapeworm!

Your doggo can unwittingly swallow a flea while chewing at an itchy spot or while cleaning themselves. These fleas could be carrying tapeworm pests in the form of tapeworm eggs. Once inside the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), the tapeworm egg matures into an adult tapeworm.

This intestinal parasite attaches itself to the lining of the small intestine with sharp, beak-like mouth-pieces. The tapeworms absorb nutrients as they pass through the GIT. Thus, tapeworms can cause malnutrition and weight loss.

Further symptoms include increased appetite and tiredness. A severe tapeworm infection could be accompanied by diarrhea or constipation.

An adult tapeworm can measure between four and twenty-eight inches long! Adult tapeworms are made up of segments, some of which carry eggs. As the tapeworm matures, some of these segments break off the back of the tapeworm.

These segments can end up in your dog’s stool. From there they can be picked up or ingested by other dogs, animals or humans. In their new host, the eggs can then mature into adult tapeworms. Thus, completing the vicious cycle.

Bartonella: This Infection is Not Fun for Anyone! 

A Bartonella infection (Bartonellosis) is another possible ‘side effect’ of a flea infestation. Initially, a bartonellosis infection was thought to be limited to cats. Yet, increasing evidence shows that dogs too can be infected with the Bartonella bacterium.

Although not conclusive, infection with this bacterium has been linked to fleas. Dogs affected by Bartonella don’t usually show any clinical signs. Yet, the bacteria have been coupled with medical conditions of the heart, liver, and eyes.

Flea Treatment for Dogs: How to Kill Fleas on Dogs

Getting rid of fleas on dogs can be a massive battle. To ensure success, you must treat for fleas at every point in their life-cycle. Start with treating the existing fleas:

  • Administer a fast-acting oral flea remedy. This will kill the fleas that are biting your beloved pup. These dead fleas will brush or wash off your dog more easily.
  • Dip a flea comb in dish soap and water and groom your pupper. The dish soap should help to kill the remaining fleas that land on the comb.
  • Bath your pooch with a specially formulated flea shampoo.
  • Use a flea spray to deter fleas from settling in your dog’s coat.
  • Give regular flea preventive medication.
  • Monitor your dog for a flea infestation by doing weekly inspections and grooming sessions.

An effective flea prevention regime can help to break the life cycle of fleas on dogs and put an end to your flea infestation troubles. From collars to topical or oral products, there are several different options to choose from.

Some treatments last for a month, while others last for up to 8 months. Choose the right modality for you and your dog. Make sure that your dog stays protected against a flea infestation. Use flea preventives the whole year round.

For dogs with FAD, you must treat with something that kills fleas on contact. They cannot be allowed to bite your pup as that is what causes the allergic reaction and accompanying discomfort.

sick pup needing flea treatment for dogs

The Best Home Remedies for Fleas on Dogs

Most over the counter flea remedies and preventives contain poisons that are not ideal for human contact. Some people feel uncomfortable dousing their four-legged friends with these chemicals.

If that is the case, why not try some of these natural remedies instead!

Rosemary Flea Dip

Chemical flea dips can be harsh and irritate the skin. Especially with younger and sickly animals. Make a rosemary flea dip instead!

Steep two cups of fresh rosemary in boiling water for thirty minutes. Strain the liquid and add it to a gallon of warm water. Once the brew is cool enough, pour it over your dog until they are soaked. Let them dry naturally.

Lemon Spray Repellant

For this natural preventive, cut a lemon into quarters. Cover with boiling water and allow to steep overnight. In the morning, you can spray this concoction on your pet.

Take care not to get any in the eyes. Aim the spray for the areas behind their ears, under their legs, and at the base of their tail.

Home-made Natural Flea Collars

Make a natural flea collar by pouring a mixture of 1 teaspoon unflavored vodka plus 1 drop of cedarwood essential oil over a nylon or cotton collar. Allow the collar to dry and then place on your pup. Refresh the collar once a week.

Brewer’s Yeast

A healthy body will be better equipped to ward off pests and diseases. A supplement that seems to assist in combating fleas is brewer’s yeast. It is suggested that the addition of the following amounts to your pet’s meals could assist in the fight against flea infestations:

  • ½ a teaspoon of brewer’s yeast for a cat or small dog.
  • 1 teaspoon per 30 pounds of body weight for larger dogs.


Parasites to fight parasites. Nematodes are tiny (microscopic) worm-like parasites. Some of them are useful in that they feed on pests such as fleas. You should be able to buy nematodes at your nearest garden store. Make a spray mixture with water and spray all around your yard.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Either inside or outside, apple cider vinegar could help prevent flea infection in your pets. You can apply it topically in the form of a spray.

Make up a 1:1 raw apple cider vinegar water solution and spray over your dog’s coat. Alternatively, try adding 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s water. Just keep an eye out for any uncommon reactions!

Heat Treatment

An important part of the preventing fleas on dogs is to keep your pooch’s bedding clean and flea-free. Wash regularly. If you can wash the bedding in hot water and dry on high heat, the fleas will surely not survive.

Every Pup Parent Needs to Know How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs!

Fleas are a universal problem, affecting dogs of all shapes and sizes. Flea infestations can get out of hand so quickly.

It is very important to check your pooch for fleas on a regular basis. Make sure that your canine bestie and the rest of your furry family are on an effective flea prevention program.

Dog Fleas are a Threat to Everyone Living Under Your Roof! 

Mommy, Daddy, Baby, and Me! Everyone will suffer discomfort if a flea population is allowed to take up residence in your home. Be vigilant and act quickly at the first sign of fleas.

Common Questions About Fleas on Dogs

What diseases can fleas cause?

Are there natural remedies against fleas on dogs?

How long do fleas live?

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