Fleas are one of the greatest nuisances to affect our pets, but also one of the most preventable. These tiny parasites can live indoors or outdoors, and are found in nearly every habitable region of the world. Fleas not only cause incessant itching and scratching to dogs, but can also lead to greater problems, such as hot spots and tapeworms. Even worse, they can affect humans within the household and are difficult to get rid of once an infestation occurs.
Flea Life Cycle
Having a better understanding of the flea lifecycle will underscore why flea prevention is important. First, a flea inhabits a host; typically by jumping from woods or brush onto a warm body. Next, a female flea sucks the host’s blood in order to begin the reproduction cycle. Then, she will lay 40 – 50 eggs per day – doing so in your dog’s fur, in your house’s upholstery, or in the carpet. After the eggs hatch (within 1 – 6 days), they are in the pupae stage for 3 – 6 weeks until they form into adult fleas. After this period of time, they can begin feeding on your pet and laying eggs of their own.
Dangers of Fleas to your Dog
Many dogs are allergic to the saliva of fleas, which is the root cause of severe itching and scratching. When a flea bite is excessively scratched, an open sore called a “hot spot” can form, which is an infected bite that is uncomfortable to the dog and can be difficult to heal. In addition, a dog that accidentally ingests a flea when biting at an infestation can develop a tapeworm infection. The signs of this parasite can take months or even years to show, but a tapeworm will feast on the dog’s digestive tract, robbing the animal of necessary nutrients. Anemia, weight loss, and even death can occur.
Removing flea infestations is difficult, and can take months to ensure fleas of all life stages have been removed. The affected dog will require 1 – 3 treatments, such as a flea bath or flea spray. Here, the dog is washed with a powerful insecticide that is intended to kill all fleas and eggs living on the dog. Next, the house must be treated. Flea bombs, which fill the house with a strong pesticide, are often used to coat every surface where fleas may be living, such as the carpet or upholstery. However, this method may not be entirely effective and often requires multiple treatments, leaving the home covered in a pesticide residue. Often, an exterminator is most efficient in removing the house of fleas, eggs, and pupae, which can become costly.
The best way to ensure you, your dog, and your household never fall victim to fleas is to use a flea prevention method. There are a number of preventatives available, including oral tablets, topical gels, and flea collars. Each method has different merits; however many pet owners and veterinarians feel that the safest solution to the flea problem is a flea collar.
A flea collar is a disposable device that is worn around a dog’s neck that contains an insecticide specifically designed to kill adult fleas and their larvae. The insecticide is distributed throughout the body via naturally occurring oils on the dog’s skin. Flea collars are typically capable of both killing and repelling the annoying insects. While side effects are rare, one of the greatest advantages of a wearable flea collar is that it can be immediately removed in order to eliminate the source of irritation to the dog and no visit to a veterinarian is required, unlike oral pills or topical gels.
Topical gels are administered monthly, directly to the dog’s skin. They contain a strong pesticide that is metabolized by the pet, permeating the dog’s skin. Fleas that bite a treated dog die on contact. While effective, side effects are common, ranging from mild itchiness or rash to severe allergic reaction, including neurological symptoms. Dogs that experience side effects must be bathed immediately and/or taken to a veterinarian.
Oral flea preventatives, which are tablets that are taken monthly, are another way to prevent fleas. Similar to the topical gels, an insecticide is metabolized by the dog, loading the skin with chemicals that will kill and repel fleas. Unfortunately, some tablets have been implicated in causing serious harm and allergic reaction to dogs, which can lead to illness and death if immediate action is not taken.
Best Flea Collar for Dogs
It is easy to see that flea collars are the safest – and simplest – option in the fight against fleas. What is the best flea collar on the market? The answer is the Seresto collar, available for large and small dogs alike. Seresto collars contain two safe and effective insecticides: imidacloprid, which is used to kill fleas, larvae, and lice; and flumethrin, which acts to repel ticks.
Unlike some flea collars, Seresto emits no odor or greasy oils. Even better, these collars are effective for eight full months, meaning that pet owners can put them on their pets in the spring and not have to worry about flea prevention again until the dead of winter. Seresto collars are also the most cost effective option for flea prevention. These collars, which are $40 – $43, depending on size, equate to approximately $5 per month. In comparison, most topical gels cost $8 – $20 per month, while oral tablets are approximately $6 – $10 per month.
In addition to their cost and effectiveness, Seresto collars are waterproof, meaning that dogs can be bathed and can even occasionally go swimming, unlike other collars or topical gels. Another unique feature of the collar is a safety release mechanism. Should the collar ever become hooked onto an object, such as a fence (which is unlikely with proper use), the collar will snap with the force of the dog’s weight, freeing the pet.
Overall, the only disadvantage of the Seresto collar is that it should be removed if your dog enjoys frequent swimming or during grooming appointments. Additionally, like all flea and tick preventatives, side effects or allergic reactions can occur. However, the extended effectiveness and extreme value of this collar makes it highly rated, and also a top vet-recommended product.
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Featured image credit : Brittany Howard