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Caring for your dog's coat : 01 All about fleas (5-min read)

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Welcome to the inaugural blog post of a series of updates on how to care for your dog's coat. Starting with a delightful subject... FLEAS


TL;DR
  • Fleas are small parasitic insects that can lead to serious issues in dogs and puppies, such skin irritation, severe allergic reaction, infection and secondary diseases, such as tapeworm.

  • They live in pet hair and feed on blood. But also, in their pupal stage they can live in your house for days, weeks and even months, protected by a cocoon that is resistant to flea treatment!

  • If your dog has fleas, you must seek treatment for your dog straight away, and ALSO TREAT YOUR HOME regularly.

  • Prevention is better than cure. Most groomers start with a health check on your dog, meaning regular visits can help you to spot fleas, or other issues, before they become a big problem.


Why are fleas dangerous?

Fleas are small, parasitic insects that feed on the blood of mammals, such as dogs, cats and humans. At their most benign, flea bites are itchy and bothersome, but on skin-sensitive or allergic pets they can lead to severe reactions, such as inflammation, or secondary infections as a result of scratching. Fleas also act as a host for tapeworm eggs, and can pass this onto your pet too. As a responsible dog owner, it's important to know how to recognise and treat fleas.


What are the symptoms of a flea infestation on my dog or puppy?

Look for the following signs:

  • Scratching

  • Bald or sore patches on the skin

  • Redness or irritation on the skin

  • Thickened areas of skin, e.g. around the ears

  • Dark flecks in the coat, that look like dirt, but stain reddish-brown when wiped with a white piece of kitchen roll

  • If you, or any other humans in the household also have similar symptoms, it's a strong indicator of fleas.


How do I check for and get rid of fleas on my dog?
  • Examine your dog's coat and skin at home.

  • Use a flea comb on brushed, damp and conditioned hair (has to be done regularly, every 2-3 days for a few weeks at least to ensure all the fleas are gone).

  • Take your dog to the groomer regularly (every 4-6 weeks, obvs!) as we always check the dog's coat before a groom. Do make sure your groomer has a recognised qualification though, as we are trained in how to identify potential risks to the skin. I can't speak for groomers who have not got a professional qualification.

  • Use a flea-shampoo

  • Obtain prescription flea treatment from your vet (for example, my dog takes monthly flea and worming tablets). This is by far the most effective treatment, above, for example...

  • Topical treatments and other over-the-counter products. (Personally, I would always go to my vet first, but if I lacked options, I would investigate the alternatives even knowing they are less effective.)

  • Treat your home to make sure ALL the fleas are gone, as 95% of the flea problem is there, and only 5% is on your dog.


No way, 95% of the flea problem is in my home? How to do I treat them there?

According to the RSPCA, 95% of fleas eggs, flea larvae and flea pupae live in the environment and not on your pet. That means any warm or moist crevice of your house is at risk, and especially your soft furnishings.

The most important things to know are:

  • Fleas can live in the environment for anything between 14 days and a year. This means that treating your home is more than just a one-off, done-in-a-day affair.

  • One of the reasons they can survive so long is because, in their pupal stage when they are in a cocoon, they are resistant to external threats, like flea sprays and other pesticides.

  • The pupae can sense when a host might be near - for example the vibrations of a pet or human walking can trigger them to come out of their cocoon as an adult flea. Otherwise, they just stay in there, chilling.

How to de-flea your home:
  • Hoover every part of your home every week, at least, and more often during an infestation. This removes flea eggs and larvae, but also the vibrations from the hoover can stimulate a pupa to leave its cocoon, from which point it can be killed.

  • Pay attention to floors and skirting boards when you clean. Beat your sofa cushions, curtains and rugs before hoovering to jiggle the little fellows about a bit

  • Always change the hoover bag and throw out the old one! Fleas can survive in there, they can develop in there, and they can get out. Flea eggs or larvae in a hoover mean a flea infestation in your home.

  • Regularly wash (means weekly in my book) your dog's bedding, blankets and toys

  • Use a recommended insecticide spray or flea bomb but remember - sprays and bombs don't get rid of pupae so you have to treat your home regularly until you are absolutely sure all the fleas are gone.

For fellow nerds, there is a fantastic explanation here on the different stages of the flea life cycle.


And finally...groomers and fleas

Some groomers will continue to groom a dog if fleas are discovered on their coat when in the salon. The groomer will alert you to the problem and, if it's discovered before they bath, they will use a good flea shampoo (which isn't a replacement for proper veterinary treatment.) However, after reading this article you will recognise how much additional cleaning and disinfection work is required, and understand why most groomers will charge an additional fee to cover this.


Ultimately, it's a decision taken by the management, who have to balance the risk to other dogs, as well as to their business, if fleas infect the premises.


Since I am an at-home groomer that's a risk I cannot take. I share my home/working environment with my husband, with my kids, with our friends, with our pet dog, as well as with my wonderful clients and their dogs. I don't just have a salon here, I have an entire home. This is why I won't groom a dog if I suspect it has a flea infection. If this happens, I will call and ask you to collect them immediately, I will cancel any other appointments that day and I will immediately take extra measures to disinfect my house. I will also add £30 to your bill in addition to the original fee. Given that it's one of the biggest risks that faces my business, this feels appropriate to me, as it will cost me a lot more in time, money and lost income to get rid of an infestation.

That means it is in all our interests to gen up on fleas, to know what to look for, and to take swift action when we find them!




Sources

Unfortunately, there is a lot of ignorance and misinformation circulating about this topic, and it is difficult to know what information to trust. All the information in this post has been taken from the following reputable UK and US-based sources:



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