Dog flea
The dog flea is a species of flea
Flea is the common name for insects of the order Siphonaptera which are wingless insects with mouthparts adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood...

 (Siphonaptera) that lives primarily on the blood of dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

s. The dog flea is troublesome because it can spread Dipylidium caninum
Dipylidium caninum
Dipylidium caninum, also called the cucumber tapeworm or the double-pore tapeworm, is a cyclophyllid cestode that infects organisms afflicted with fleas, including canids, felids, and pet-owners, especially children. Adult worms are about 18 inches long...

. They are commonly found in Europe.

Although they feed on the blood of dogs and cats, they sometimes bite humans. They can live without food for several months, but females must have a blood
Blood is a specialized bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells....

 meal before they can produce eggs
Egg (biology)
An egg is an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins to develop. In most birds, reptiles, insects, molluscs, fish, and monotremes, an egg is the zygote, resulting from fertilization of the ovum, which is expelled from the body and permitted to develop outside the body until the developing...

. They can deliver about 4000 eggs on the host's fur
Fur is a synonym for hair, used more in reference to non-human animals, usually mammals; particularly those with extensives body hair coverage. The term is sometimes used to refer to the body hair of an animal as a complete coat, also known as the "pelage". Fur is also used to refer to animal...

. The eggs go through four lifecycle stages: embryo
An embryo is a multicellular diploid eukaryote in its earliest stage of development, from the time of first cell division until birth, hatching, or germination...

, larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

, pupa
A pupa is the life stage of some insects undergoing transformation. The pupal stage is found only in holometabolous insects, those that undergo a complete metamorphosis, going through four life stages; embryo, larva, pupa and imago...

, and imago
In biology, the imago is the last stage of development of an insect, after the last ecdysis of an incomplete metamorphosis, or after emergence from the pupa where the metamorphosis is complete...

 (adult). This whole life cycle
Biological life cycle
A life cycle is a period involving all different generations of a species succeeding each other through means of reproduction, whether through asexual reproduction or sexual reproduction...

 from egg to adult takes from two to three weeks, although this depends on the temperature. It may take longer in cool conditions.


The dog flea's mouthparts are adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood. Dog fleas are external parasites
Parasitism is a type of symbiotic relationship between organisms of different species where one organism, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the other, the host. Traditionally parasite referred to organisms with lifestages that needed more than one host . These are now called macroparasites...

, living by hematophagy
Hematophagy is the practice of certain animals of feeding on blood...

 off the blood of dogs. The dog often experiences severe itching in all areas where the fleas may reside.

Fleas do not have wings and their hard body is flattened from side-to-side and has hairs and spines, which makes it easy for them to travel through hair. They have relatively long hind legs for jumping.

Signs and symptoms

Flea infestations can be not only annoying for both dogs and humans but also very dangerous. Problems caused by fleas may range from mild to severe itching and discomfort to skin problems and infections. Anemia
Anemia is a decrease in number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. However, it can include decreased oxygen-binding ability of each hemoglobin molecule due to deformity or lack in numerical development as in some other types of hemoglobin...

 may also result from flea bites in extreme circumstances. Furthermore, fleas can transmit tapeworms and diseases to pets.

When fleas bite humans they may develop an itching rash with small bumps that may bleed. This rash is usually located on the armpit or fold of a joint such as the elbow, knee, or ankle. When the area is pressed, it turns white.

When dogs are troubled by fleas they scratch and bite themselves, especially in areas such as the head, neck, and around the tail. Fleas normally concentrate in such areas. This incessant scratching and biting may cause the dog's skin to become red and inflamed.

Flea allergy
An Allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system. Allergic reactions occur when a person's immune system reacts to normally harmless substances in the environment. A substance that causes a reaction is called an allergen. These reactions are acquired, predictable, and rapid...

 dermatitis is developed by those dogs allergic to flea saliva. In this case, the symptoms previously mentioned are more pronounced. Because of compulsive scratching and biting, the dog may lose hair, get bald spots, exhibit hot spots due to extreme irritation, and develop infections that result in smelly skin.


To effectively get rid of fleas and flea eggs, one should treat not only dogs but also the household and exterior regions to eliminate eggs from bedding, grass, floor, furniture and other areas.

Treatment should be given as soon as signs of fleas appear and repeated regularly. Delays in treating the infestation may lead to flea-transmitted diseases.

Once-a-month topical products are the most commonly used products to kill parasite infestations. They are normally applied on the back of the pet and their advantage is that they also provide protection from further infestations. Sprays come in the form of aerosols and pump bottles and they are meant to be applied on all parts of the pet. Dips and rinses are also available but they are not as common as the other such products because they are ones of the most unsafe for the health of the pet.

In 2009 the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) conducted an investigation into the reactions of many pets to topical flea products and released preliminary reports in the spring of 2010.

There are also different treatments available for dogs from natural alternatives to chemically-based products that include topical medications and oral medications. Although common remedies provide natural options with natural ingredients such as lavender
The lavenders are a genus of 39 species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. An Old World genus, distributed from Macaronesia across Africa, the Mediterranean, South-West Asia, Arabia, Western Iran and South-East India...

, pennyroyal
Pennyroyal refers to two plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. For the American species, see American pennyroyal. The European pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium, , is a plant in the mint genus, within the family Lamiaceae. Crushed Pennyroyal leaves exhibit a very strong fragrance similar to spearmint...

, neem
Azadirachta indica is a tree in the mahogany family Meliaceae. It is one of two species in the genus Azadirachta, and is native to India growing in tropical and semi-tropical regions. Its fruits and seeds are the source of neem oil...

, and sweet mace which are insect repellent
Insect repellent
An insect repellent is a substance applied to skin, clothing, or other surfaces which discourages insects from landing or climbing on that surface. There are also insect repellent products available based on sound production, particularly ultrasound...

s care should be used since "natural" does not always mean non-toxic.

Evaluations of the toxicity of flea treatment products have been scientifically studied and are available online from the Natural Resource Defense Council and a list of less toxic and alternative treatments can be found in the reference book, Flea Control Secrets which maintains a blog specifically on flea treatment.

Control products include medicines, drops and sprays that offer different results. Some of the most common brands and their basic characteristics include:
  • Frontline comes in sprays, drops, general flea medication, and other flea control products and it is highly effective.
  • Advantage is a quick-acting topical application product that stops biting fleas in three to five minutes.
  • K9 Advantix not only kills fleas and ticks but also offers control against mosquitoes, biting flies and lice with its waterproof formula.
  • Capstar is an affordable Nitenpyram
    Nitenpyram is an insecticide used in agriculture and veterinary medicine to kill insect external parasites of livestock and pets.In veterinary medicine, it is used orally with dogs and cats to control fleas . After ingestion, it begins killing fleas within 30 minutes and kills every adult flea on...

     pill that kills 98% of adult fleas within five hours. However, eggs and larva do not get killed so it may be necessary to combine it with another product.
  • Program comes in pills or liquid and it is taken monthly. It basically kills off the flea's capacity to reproduce which gradually kills off all the fleas.
  • Revolution is a spot application that protects dogs from heartworms, fleas and other parasites.
  • Biospot is an affordable option made to kill fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. One application lasts about three months for fleas but one month for ticks and mosquitoes. It is not waterproof.
  • Sentinel is a monthly Lufenuron
    Lufenuron is the active ingredient in the veterinary flea control medication Program, and one of the active ingredients in the veterinary flea control, heartworm prevention, and anthelmintic medicine milbemycin oxime/lufenuron .Lufenuron is stored in the animal's body fat and transferred to adult...

     tablet that stops young fleas from molting their outer shells, and makes the females lay eggs that can't hatch.
  • Vectra is a once a month flea and tick treatment given to dogs. It kills all fleas and ticks that stays on the dog for a given amount of time. The formula is waterproof. The dog formula should not be used on cats as it has an ingredient that could affect the cat in negative ways.

Before choosing a treatment it is important to know the dog's weight and age. It is also important to consult a veterinarian to learn more about the products and choose the one that is best for the dog.

Alternative treatments

Alternative treatments include homemade repellents
Insect repellent
An insect repellent is a substance applied to skin, clothing, or other surfaces which discourages insects from landing or climbing on that surface. There are also insect repellent products available based on sound production, particularly ultrasound...

. Garlic
Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and rakkyo. Dating back over 6,000 years, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent...

, Brewers Yeast, and apple cider vinegar are effective in repelling fleas on healthy dogs. Sick or immune deficient dogs tend to attract more fleas and may require both commercial and alternative treatment.


Preventing and controlling flea infestations is a multi-step process. Prevention in the case of flea infestations can sometimes be difficult but is the most effective way to ensure the dog will not get re-infected. Controlling flea infestations implies not only that the pet has been cured and the fleas living on it are killed but also that the environment in which the pet lives is free of these parasites. And from all these, removing the fleas from the pet is maybe the easiest and simplest step given the many products especially designed to kill fleas that are available on the market.

Every female flea on the pet is likely to have laid eggs in the environment in which the pet lives. Therefore, effective prevention and control of flea infestations implies having removed the fleas from both indoor and outdoor environments, from all pets and also keeping immature forms of fleas from developing.

Removing the flea in indoor environments mainly consists of removing the fleas mechanically. This can be done by a thorough vacuuming, especially in places where fleas are more likely to be found such as below drapes, the place where the pet sleeps and under furniture edges. It is estimated that vacuuming can remove up to 50% of flea eggs. After vacuuming, one is recommended to use an especially designed product to kill the remaining fleas and to stop the development of eggs and larvae
In Roman mythology, lemures were shades or spirits of the restless or malignant dead, and are probably cognate with an extended sense of larvae as disturbing or frightening...

. These products are available on the market and may include carpet powders, sprays or foggers which contain adulticides and insect growth regulators.

Special attention should be paid to the dog's bedding. This should be washed every week; also the bed and surrounding areas should be treated with adulticides and insect growth regulators. Cleaning should be done at the same time in the cars, garage, pet carrier, basement or any other place where the dog is known to spend time.

Preventing flea infestations must include eliminating the parasites from the yard or kennel areas, the two places in which fleas are most likely to occur. Dog houses, patios or porches are some of the outdoor areas in which it is more likely to find fleas and those should be thoroughly cleaned. Fleas can also be carried by wild animals such as opossums, chipmunk
Chipmunks are small striped squirrels native to North America and Asia. They are usually classed either as a single genus with three subgenera, or as three genera.-Etymology and taxonomy:...

s and raccoon
Procyon is a genus of nocturnal mammals, comprising three species commonly known as raccoons, in the family Procyonidae. The most familiar species, the common raccoon , is often known simply as "the" raccoon, as the two other raccoon species in the genus are native only to the tropics and are...

s. One is recommended to discourage these wild animals from their property and pets by never feeding them.

Removing fleas from the pets is not a difficult task considering the advent of products that are available on the market and which are especially designed not only to kill fleas but also to offer protection from further infestations. The flea control products come in the shape of once-a-month topical, dog collars, sprays, dips, powders, shampoos or injectable and oral products. All these products contain an insecticide
An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. The use of insecticides is believed to be one of the major factors behind...

as an active ingredient which kills the fleas when coming into contact with them. Fleas absorb the insecticide which either paralyzes them or kills them.

A very important part of flea prevention is to persist with the same control measures for as long as possible. Even though the cleaning process was successful it is very likely that fleas in incipient stages still exist around the house or on the pet. The life cycle of fleas can take up to six months and that is why it is recommended to keep up with the prevention measures for as long as half a year.
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