Fleas are a nuisance to more than just your dog. These tiny bloodsuckers won't hesitate to jump on you and take a bite if they get the opportunity. Although they won't take up residence on your body as they do dogs, they'll leave behind itchy red souvenirs of their brief visits. Treating a flea infestation at the first sign can help reduce the chances that you'll be bitten and will give your pet relief before the problem grows.
Fleas are tiny insects, about an eighth of an inch long in their adult stage. They don't have wings, but they have claws that help them latch onto their hosts. Rough bristles on their bodies help the insects hold onto your pet's fur. Fleas will jump from your pet's body to yours and bite you, but they won't remain on your body for long. If you notice itchy red flea bites, your dog is likely the vector -- though fleas can bite you during a walk in the woods or even in your yard.
Recognizing the Problem
If your dog has fleas, the first clue might be that your dog can't stop scratching part of his body. Flea bites are itchy whether you're a dog or a person -- and some dogs have allergies to fleas that make bites even more uncomfortable. Signs of infestation might include small red bumps on your dog's skin and flea dirt in his fur. Flea dirt is flea feces. You might see fleas or flea dirt if you comb through his hair, or you might notice them in carpeting. If flea dirt is present in your dog's fur, you'll notice small black specks when you comb or brush him. Rub a speck on a white surface; if it turns rust-color, it's flea dirt. If your dog's infested, you are at risk of flea bites.
The Good News
Pets and can pass some diseases to people. These are called zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases include such illnesses as Lyme disease, rabies and the plague. Although flea bites are something people and pets can share, the problem doesn't qualify as a zoonotic disease since an illness isn't passed from your pet to you.
Fleas travel with their host -- your dog -- which means anything that comes in contact with your dog is probably flea-infested. If your dog sleeps with you or snuggles up next to you on the couch, fleas won't hesitate to make the short jump from your dog's body to yours. To prevent becoming a meal for fleas, wash everything you can wash, and vacuum thoroughly. During an infestation, comb your dog several times every day to remove fleas. Flea dips, sprays, powders and shampoos also can be helpful in removing fleas from your dog's fur. Apply outdoor flea sprays to your yard to kill fleas and flea larvae.
Don't use flea dip on puppies or on dogs who are pregnant or nursing puppies, as the dip can be toxic to these dogs. Avoid touching your pet until the flea preparation dries completely. Flea sprays and foggers can kill fleas quickly in your home, but you must use these products cautiously. Keep pets and people out of your home for the prescribed waiting period when you use a spray or fogger. Some products can cause allergic reactions in people with asthma.
By Jill Leviticus
About the Author
Working at a humane society allowed Jill Leviticus to combine her business management experience with her love of animals. Leviticus has a journalism degree from Lock Haven University, has written for Nonprofit Management Report, Volunteer Management Report and Healthy Pet, and has worked in the healthcare field.