Many dogs will at some point in their lives suffer from fleas. These parasites can cause itchy skin conditions, allergic reactions and even anemia in some cases. Luckily, there’s an easy way to discover if your dog is suffering – flea dirt.
So what is flea dirt? What does flea dirt look like? Let’s find out how to spot it and what to do when you have.
What is Flea Dirt?
Flea dirt is one of the primary indicators that your Lab has fleas and that you need to take action. These small black specks are flea faeces and materially are composed of old blood. You’ll mostly spot them on the skin of your dog, although they’re also known to show up in dog beds and other places your pet spends time too.
They’re very small in size – less than a millimeter long – and have the appearance of flecks of black pepper. If you touch them, they’ll feel slightly rough and grainy, like sand.
Even if you can’t see the fleas themselves on your Lab, the flea dirt means that you have them in your home and that they have already been feeding on your dog.
How Can I Tell if it’s Flea Dirt?
The appearance of flea dirt can look a little like regular dirt and some people are reluctant to accept their dog has fleas (especially if they haven’t spotted any other signs of the parasites). Hey, perhaps you did just spill some pepper on your dog, right?
There is a reliable way to tell if those black specks are definitely flea dirt, however. You should either lightly wet a paper towel and gently rub it on the area of black specks or extract a few of the black specks, put them on a paper towel and add a few drops of water to them.
In both methods, if the specks on the paper towel start to liquidate into something that looks like a small bloodstain, you’ll know that it’s flea dirt.
How Can I Remove Flea Dirt?
Firstly, you should give your Lab a thorough bath with a high-quality anti-flea shampoo, leaving the solution to take hold for around 5 to 10 minutes before you rinse off.
Once they’ve been rinsed, it’s time to literally go over them with a fine-tooth comb – invest in a specialist flea comb and comb through the hair over their entire body, removing the flea dirt and killing any fleas you spot as you go.
You should also consult your vet who will be able to recommend a suitable flea prevention program to keep these critters away for good. Prescription medication is particularly effective while you can also buy reliable over-the-counter solutions too.
If you have more than one dog at home, make sure to keep the flea-affected ones separate from the non-affected ones and get all the dogs on a prevention course.
Once you’ve dealt with your Lab, it’s time to tackle the problem at the source and treat your home. Wash all bedding – both yours and the dog’s! – And vacuum all carpets thoroughly with a high powered vacuum. You may even want to shampoo your carpet if you think there is an infestation.
Next, you’ll need to treat your home with an insect growth regulator. This will stop flea eggs hatching and inhibit the growth of any flea larvae. If you suspect a severe infestation, it may be worth consulting an extermination professional to ensure that the problem is properly dealt with.
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What Happens if I Ignore Flea Dirt?
Unfortunately, fleas aren’t just one of those medical problems that just disappear of their own accord one day: you’ve got to take action. The life cycle of fleas is such that one solitary flea can eventually go on to cause an infestation. That one flea will lay a small number eggs on your Lab after feeding on its blood, which will then hatch within a matter of days into larvae.
These larvae then spin themselves cocoons, in which they are safe from destruction, and hide themselves in shaded locations – bedding and furniture, for instance. They will stay like this for a few weeks before becoming adult fleas. These new fleas will then start the life cycle again and increasingly more eggs will be laid.
What this means for your dog, is health problems. Not only can fleas cause itching and other skin problems, but they can also cause more serious internal damage too.
As they feed on your dog’s blood, you pup can become anemic. Some dogs will develop severe allergic reactions too – when a flea bites, it injects saliva into the skin of your dog. This can lead to Flea Allergy Dermatitis and some seriously uncomfortable doggies, as your Lab becomes hypersensitive to flea bites.
How to Prevent Fleas
As we always say, prevention is better than cure when it comes to flea treatment, and there are a few easy ways to stop your dog getting infested by fleas.
Firstly, there are a myriad of products on the market that you can treat your Lab with that will deter and kill any fleas. These range from flea collars, to specialist shampoos, to tablets and monthly topical treatments. To work out what will work best for your dog, you should always speak to your vet.
If you’re concerned about harsh chemicals, research some of the more natural ways for keeping fleas at bay. Essential oils and apple cider vinegar are popular insecticides, and you can find more natural flea prevention methods here.
You can watch a video of a dog having an anti-flea vinegar shampoo below:
Next, you’ll need to maintain your home and your Lab’s environment as flea-free. That means regular vacuuming (to kill and remove eggs and pupae from your carpets and furniture) and regular washing of your dog’s bedding and anywhere else they spend a lot of time.
If you have a yard, make sure to keep the grass short and any debris well contained – Fleas like dark areas so a yard with plenty of piles of dead leaves, for instance, is a great place for them to inhabit.
You’ll need to be even more vigilant about cleaning and vacuuming if you live in a hotter climate – fleas thrive in environments of between 65 to 80° F and 75-85% humidity.
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