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What You Need to Know About Fleas

Pet Health and Safety  •   Erin Tursam  •   Mar 23, 2017

Don’t give fleas a fighting chance this spring.

By the time March rolls around, we are all ready for spring and all the wonderful things that come with it—sun, warm breezes, flowers, birds, fleas, Fleas? No. No one looks forward to flea season and all the dangers that come with them.

Fleas are more than just a nuisance to your pet and a headache to pet owners, they can actually be very harmful. Thankfully, as pet owners in the 21st century, we have the ability to protect our pets with flea and tick prevention. Maintaining a good and regular flea prevention routine can not only keep your furry friends happy but also keep them healthy.

Location, location, location

Depending on what region of the country you’re in, determines when you’ll have to start thinking about the flea resurgence. Some areas, like the south and southwest, have to think about fleas as early as February or March, or even all year long due to the mild, humid climate. Flea problems for pets tend to be much worse in this region. Cold, drier climates like New England and the Midwest, don’t suffer from quite the same flea problems due to the long, cold winters.  Either way, February, March or April, we all have to address the reality that flea season is upon us.  

Itch, itch, scratch, scratch…

The most obvious reason for eliminating fleas is the dreadful itching and scratching that they cause! Everyone knows that where there’s one flea, there’s more. That right there is reason enough to use flea preventative!

Some pets however, experience more than just a little itching and suffer from flea allergy dermatitis, or flea allergies. Flea allergies are the most common type of allergy in dogs and can begin at any age. A dog with flea allergies is hypersensitive to the saliva of the flea and when bitten, even just once, can cause the body to overreact and have a much more dramatic reaction. Where a normal dog would just scratch the area where he was bit, a dog with flea allergies can have a reaction over a larger area or even the entire body. Skin can turn bright pink and becomes inflamed. Dogs are often so itchy that they cry, hide, scratch and chew to point of causing wounds.

If you see this type of reaction in your dog but know he does not “have fleas”, remember it just takes one flea bite to cause this heightened reaction in a dog with flea allergies. It is not necessarily a medical emergency but definitely warrants a call to the vet. Your vet may be able to give you some over-the-counter remedies that can help temporarily relieve symptoms until you can get to the root of the problem.


If your pet inadvertently swallows a flea while licking or chewing, it can cause an intestinal parasite called tapeworms. Tapeworm segments can be seen in your dog’s stool and look like fine grains of sand. These aggressive parasites can deplete your dog from important nutrients and if left untreated, could eventually make your dog very sick causing weight loss, vomiting and stomach irritation. If you see a flea on your dog and he starts exhibiting any of these symptoms, it is worth considering a trip to the vet. Your vet would use a stool sample to determine if it could be the cause.

What You Can Do

Thankfully, both of these problems can be avoided by maintaining a proper flea prevention regimen. There is a myriad of excellent flea preventives available from oral to topical to monthly to quarterly. Every year, more and more new products are coming available offering even more effective and safer methods of prevention. Your vet can advise you on which product and which regimen will work best for you based on your pet’s health, demographic location and lifestyle. Remember, fleas are more than just annoying. Keep your dog healthy this spring and stay one step ahead!


AKC Pet Insurance offers two options of Wellness and Preventative care plans—Defender and DefenderPlus that provide reimbursement for flea and tick prevention, heartworm prevention, vaccines and more. Learn more about how you can save on keeping your pet healthy!  

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