Why do fleas bite? The answer is simple. Once the flea reaches adulthood its primary goal is to find blood adult fleas must feed on blood in order to reproduce. Unfortunately, one of their favorite hosts is dogs.
Flea eggs generally lie in wait in your yard, hoping for a dog to come by. When the dog lies down, the eggs attach themselves to it, and when the dog walks into your house, the eggs come right in with it.
Naturally, other mammals can also contact flea eggs. But when they do, we don’t care. It’s a problem for us only when they infest our dog or our house.
The thing about fleas is that they are tough little critters that have been blessed with three very strong survival advantages.
First of all, even though dog fleas are very small creatures, they have an immune system. And can develop immunity to just about any kind of pesticide you might use on them. It may take a few generations for them to develop the immunity but since fleas reproduce so quickly, a few generations is nothing to them. This means that before you know it, that flea and tick spray you have been using so successfully suddenly becomes nothing more than a nice shower for the fleas.
Second, fleas have a life cycle that includes four stages of development. They began as an egg, and then progress to larvae, then pupae and, finally, become adults. When they are in the pupae stage, they develop a silk-like cocoon that protects them against bug bombs, flea collars, powders and just about anything else you can throw at them.
Finally, despite what you might think, fleas don’t live just on your dog. It would be great if they did, because then all we would have to do is kill the fleas on the dog and we’d be done with them. However, when your dog brings flea eggs into the house, some of them will drop off, landing on your floor, carpet, or goodness knows where else. Worse yet, the adult female flea can lay 10-50 eggs a day, and live as long as 100 days. This means one single female flea in your home can be responsible for as many as 2000 eggs.
Why Flea Bites Itch
When a flea bites your dog it injects a tiny amount of its saliva into its skin. This acts as a blood thinner, making it easier for the flea to withdraw the blood. A flea bite also sets up an allergic reaction which is what causes the itching and swelling that can make your dog scratch itself to the point where it actually develops a bald spot.
Flea Bites Can Transmit Disease
It is bad enough that fleas bite you and your dog, causing skin irritations and discomfort. Flea bites can also transmit various diseases, including bubonic plague and murine typhus. Fortunately, only a few cases occur in the U.S. every year and both diseases respond well to antibiotics.
Fleas Can Lead To A Tapeworm
Fleas themselves can become tapeworm infested. But this doesn’t really cause them a problem. However, as your dog is cleaning itself it may ingest one of these infested fleas. And when the flea is digested, its tiny tapeworm is freed to enter your dog’s intestines where it can eventually grow to a length of 4-6 inches. Or even longer. And once your dog develops a tapeworm, it will take special medicines to eliminate it.
Dog Flea Treatment
If your dog does get a bad case of fleas, there are a number of ways to rid him or her of these noxious pests. The most effective of these today are a new breed of dog flea medicines – applied topically or given to the dog orally. In the case of the topical medications, all you have to do is put several drops on the dog’s skin between its shoulders. The oral medications are just that – given to the dog orally. The third most effective way to combat fleas are anti-flea sprays, followed in effectiveness by shampoos and then powders. Flea collars can also be effective but they have fallen out of favor with many veterinarians because they contain harsh chemicals that can harm your dog. Also, there are newer, more effective treatments available than flea collars.
A single flea can bite your dog literally hundreds of times in a single day. So, if you want to keep Fido from going crazy with these bites, you will need to get on the problem right away. You should talk with your vet to learn which dog flea treatment would be best for your dog, given its age, weight and general condition. Then, you can get started on the treatment and ensure that both your dog and your home becomes flea free.