Fleas are one of the most frustrating issues to deal with as a pet owner. Not only do they spread quickly between pets, but they can start to nest in your home’s carpets, bedding, and pet toys, making them seemingly impossible to get rid of. What’s more, flea infestations can lead to scabbing and dangerous pet health issues, like infections.
If your dog has scabs from fleas, you’re in the right place. In this post, we’ll explain what to do about dog scabs from fleas, how to deal with flea infestations, and more.
- Flea Infestations
- How To Treat Dog Scabs From Fleas
- Final Notes
Before we explain how to treat dog scabs from fleas, let’s discuss some important information about flea infestations and how they affect your pet.
What Are Fleas?
Fleas are tiny insects that jump rather than fly – they don’t have wings – that need animal blood to survive. This includes human blood to an extent, but the fleas you find on your dog specifically need the dog’s blood to survive long-term. Fleas are annoying and spread quickly to other animals, leaving infected pets itchy and irritated. Additionally, there is the risk of a flea bite transmitting a disease, aggravating allergies, or creating such noticeable blood loss that the affected animal develops anemia.1
When A Dog Gets Fleas, What’s Really Going On?
Fleas breed as they eat. When a flea lands on your dog – and realizes the dog’s fur is a great place to hide out – it will bite the animal, also known as having a blood meal. About one to two days after that, the female flea will be ready to lay eggs, and she’ll do that as she continues feeding and crawling around in your dog’s fur. This movement helps her lay more and more flea eggs as she can lay about 50 eggs per day, with a lifetime total of nearly 2,000 eggs.
These flea eggs are tiny and very, very hard to see, especially if your dog has light-colored fur and skin because the eggs are whitish. Even worse, the eggs can drop off the skin of the dog. If the fur doesn’t catch the eggs, the eggs will fall onto the ground – or your carpet, bed, or garden soil. In less than six days, and often much sooner, those eggs will hatch and produce flea larvae, which can move on their own and seek out flea dirt (in other words, the droppings) and other organic litter.
Dogs and cats can pick up fleas outside, or a flea-infested pet visiting your home can drop flea eggs onto your carpet. That’s all it takes for your home to develop a flea infestation. As those eggs hatch, your dog becomes flea food, and you suddenly find tiny bites on your ankles.
Where the dog is exposed to fleas is often anyone’s guess. The dog could have gotten near an infested animal, and one of those fleas could have jumped onto your dog; or, your dog could have wandered near a section of soil that had fleas living in it, and one of those fleas hitched a ride.
Unfortunately, dogs can develop something called flea allergy dermatitis.1 This is a skin condition (dermatitis) that is an allergic reaction to substances in the flea bite. When the flea bites the dog, it’s not a quick chomp, but actual feeding. As part of this feeding, the flea lets saliva flow into the bite. Unfortunately, this saliva is a common allergen for dogs and cats, and the resulting irritation can make the animal itch terribly, even more than it normally would itch just from the irritation of the bite alone.
The dog might appear to scratch itself endlessly, or lick, chew, bite, or rub the affected section of skin, much as you might scratch an itchy mosquito bite. If you look at these bite sites and see crusted skin, especially around the tail and hips, there’s a good chance you’re seeing flea allergy dermatitis. The crusting can develop into scabbing and hair loss, and if the dog injures itself with all its scratching and biting, those sites can develop their own infections. Continued scratching and untreated dermatitis can lead to unnaturally thick skin, unnatural darkening of the skin, and long-term hair loss. In severe cases of flea infestation, the large blood meal taken by the fleas can lead to anemia, especially in puppies.
How To Recognize A Flea Bite
Technically, a flea bite on a dog looks like a little red dot that’s slightly raised. However, since you’re most likely to find flea bites after your dog has scratched them several times, look for reddened patches of skin that look irritated, as well as scabby with thinner fur (if not an actual patch of missing fur), along with excessive scratching, chewing, and biting.