Brian Faulkner - BSc (Hons), BVM&S, MBA, MSc(Psych), MRCVS

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Help, my puppy has fleas!

Brian Faulkner - BSc (Hons), BVM&S, MBA, MSc(Psych), MRCVS
Reading time: 2 minutes

Flea infestations can happen even in the most spotless home or on the healthiest, cleanest puppy. However, you can control this irritating aspect of owning a puppy.

What are fleas?

Fleas are tiny, parasitic wingless insects. They have tube-like mouths adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood from the animals, birds and humans they come in contact with.

How likely is my puppy to be exposed to fleas?

Very. Fleas are the most common parasite that we see in pets, especially the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis), which also lives on dogs. This doesn’t mean your puppy has to ever come in contact with cats.

How do I know if my puppy has fleas?

If your puppy is scratching, licking or nibbling its fur, and you have some unexplained red pimples on your arms and legs, fleas are the number one suspect.  You can check for fleas by grooming your puppy’s coat using a fine-toothed comb over a white surface such as a piece of kitchen paper.

Any fleas or flea droppings will be visible on the comb or deposited onto the white surface. Add a few drops of water – if the droppings turn reddish brown, it means that it’s dried blood and it’s likely that your puppy has fleas.

Can I just ignore them

No.  Not only can flea bites make your puppy uncomfortable and itchy but they can lead to other problems. Pets and people hypersensitive to flea saliva can suffer from flea allergy dermatitis – a painful itching caused by flea bites. Flea saliva is one of the most allergenic substances there is and a severe infestation is enough to kill a puppy through blood loss.

Cat fleas can also host dog tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum), and if your puppy swallows an infected flea whilst nibbling an itch, it can become infected with this parasite. If your puppy has fleas, you should ensure it is also treated for worms.

What can I do about it?

Prevention is better than treatment when it comes to fleas but if you do have a flea infestation use veterinary-recommended treatment. You will need to treat both the fleas on your pet and the thousands of eggs in the environment to get on top of the infestation. For every flea you find on your pet there is approximately one hundred more in the environment.

Your vet is likely to recommend either an all in one oral chew or a spot-on treatment for your puppy as well as a spray for your house. You should treat all pets in your household, even if some are not scratching as they can act as a reservoir for those pets that are most sensitive.

You will need to use the preventative treatment your vet recommends on a regular basis to prevent infestations in the future.

Brian Faulkner - BSc (Hons), BVM&S, MBA, MSc(Psych), MRCVS

Brian graduated from Edinburgh Vet School in 1995 and worked in mixed practice before studying for an MBA at Nottingham Business School in 2000/2001. After setting up and developing numerous veterinary practices in Suffolk in the 2000s, Brian was awarded the Petplan-UK Vet of the Year in 2008 after having been runner-up in 2007. Brian is currently the Petplan Pet Insurance media and PR vet and works in his own small animal veterinary practice 3 days a week. During his 20 year career Brian has worked in over 250 veterinary practices as a clinician, consultant and confidence coach.

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