Fleas are the worst when it comes to dogs. They thrive in virtually all climates, except in extremely cold and extremely dry conditions and at high altitudes. I live in an extremely cold, dry, high-altitude area, but even we have fleas here, and ours tend to carry wonderful diseases like bubonic plague (you remember — the Black Death. Charming, isn't it?)
Some people don't take fleas seriously. However, a quick surf through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site (www.cdc.gov) reveals that fleas can spread other diseases besides bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis), including typhus (Rickettsia typhi — an oldie but a goodie), Brazilian Spotted Fever, Rickettsia felis (causes fever, headache, and rash), and Bartonella henselae and Bartonella clarridgeiae (cat scratch disease). Dogs also can get tapeworms from fleas.
As if diseases and parasite transmission aren't enough, many dogs are allergic to flea saliva, which can cause flea-allergy dermatitis. If your dog has fleas, she's probably pretty miserable scratching all the time. Check out the previous section on "Flea allergy dermatitis."
Fleas can transmit other diseases, too, but you've probably read enough to know that fleas are more than just an inconvenience. So how can you declare war on the bugs without collateral damage to namely you and your pets? In an earlier time, you had to flea bomb your house, flea dip your dogs, and spray wildly. You don't have to do that anymore, thankfully, except in the most extreme conditions.
Here are some exciting (or not-so-exciting) facts about fleas. Keep these in mind whenever you want to impress your friends or win a trivia-based board game.
I Fleas are wingless creatures. They don't fly; they jump.
I Fleas jump great distances to their targets. They can jump as high as 8 inches and as far as 15 inches.
I An adult flea is only as big as !4 to % of an inch long.
I The most common species of flea is the cat flea.
I Fleas feed off of birds and mammals, including humans.
I Fleas are dark brown or black.
I An adult flea can live up to 115 days on a dog but dies within one to two days if it can't find a host.
I Fleas mate within 24 to 48 hours after feeding. A female flea can lay up to 2,000 eggs.
Before you get started with your dog's flea control, make a note to be extra careful if you also have cats. Flea control products that are meant only for dogs can harm or even kill cats.
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