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Fleas

What to Do When a Chihuahua Has Fleas

How a Chihuahua Gets Fleas
  
It is usually not the fault of the owner when a dog gets fleas. A Chihuahua only needs to have one flea jump onto him in order to have a huge flea problem. A flea can jump about 6 feet; therefore you do not have a lot of control if a determined fleas wants to jump from an infested dog onto your Chihuahua or cling to its fur when walking through the grass. 

Even with flea prevention it can happen; though if you protect your dog, the chances are much less likely. Fleas are more common during hot weather; however a dog can get infected at any time or weather conditions.

Fleas live in all types of places: In yards among the grass, in pools of water, on other animals and in some houses that have pets. They can jump from animal to human back to animal. 
close up of flea
Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Identifying Fleas

These little pests are very small, just 2.5 mm in length. However, they are known to leave a trail of evidence even if they cannot be seen by the human eye. The common signs that a dog will show are:
  • Restless scratching
  • Excessive chewing or licking
  • Shaking (as trying to shake off a wet coat)
Since they are very tiny, a new infestation may be hard to visibly spot. However, they do leave tiny specks of blood a Chihuahua's coat. If you suspect that your Chi has fleas, you can test this by running a damp, white paper towel across your puppy or dog's coat, pressing firmly as you slide across. If you see red, brown or black specks, this is a sure-tell sign of the minuscule blood specks that fleas leave as they attack a dog.

In moderate to severe cases you will be able to see these tiny bugs. They are tiny dark brown bugs, but will become lighter in color as they digest blood.

If you see just one, the dog officially has an infestation, as there are going to be many more. It is almost impossible for a dog to have a lone, single flea.
Are The Fleas in My Home Also?
 
Unfortunately, the answer is most likely yes. The extent of the infestation goes far beyond what is on the dog. There will be eggs, larvae and pupae in the house and possibly outside in the yard as well.

You can test this as well. Put on a fresh pair of very clean white socks and walk heavily across a room, dragging your feet as you go. The fleas may cling to the fabric. Once you have made several passes back and forth across a room, look carefully at the bottom of the socks. 

Are there small black specks on them? If so, the room has fleas. They may be present not only on carpeting, but on furniture and clothing as well. The good news is that there is a process to fix all of this and there is prevention methods to take so that this does not happen again.
Allergic Reaction to Fleas

Oddly enough, the element that most dogs are allergic to is the saliva of the fleas; despite the tiny size of these pesky critters. And because the Chihuahua is such a small dog, they can have a more serious reason than larger breeds. If your Chihuahua is allergic to the fleas, it will show as a skin rash or irritation. In severe cases, the dog will have skin sores, lesions and/or swelling. This can lead to secondary infections.

Note: Many tiny dogs such as the Chihuahua can have an allergic to flea prevention chemicals. For this reason, we suggest an all natural flea and tick formula such as "Natural Flea and Tick Spray". For all of our specific recommendations, see 'Flea/Tick Aides - NO Chemicals' in the Chihuahua Specialty Shoppe

Are Fleas Dangerous?

Yes. Aside from your Chihuahua possibly being allergic to the flea saliva, fleas can also give your dog tapeworms. Fleas are carriers of worm eggs; often while a dog is chewing away at the intense itchiness all over his body, he will swallow a flea, which means there is a possibility of  ingesting worm eggs. 

Tapeworms find their way to your dog's intestines, settle in and begin to grow. You may not realize that your Chihuahua has these until you bring your dog in for a regular vet check up and a stool sample is tested. In some cases, you will see signs of them in the dog's feces. In either case, damage is being done to the body in the meantime. 

Actions to Take When a Chi Has Fleas

There are several things that you should do when your Chihuahua has fleas.

1) The fleas must be removed from your Chihuahua with a special flea comb. This can be done while you have your dog in the bath (or sink). You will comb through his or her coat, the fleas will drop down into the water and be rinsed away. Be sure to cover every single area of the dog. It is a good idea to do this process 2 or 3 times in a row; if even 1 flea is missed your problem will begin all over again.

2) You must also wash everything that you can. This will include not only your Chihuahua's belongings, but everything in the home. If not, the fleas will just remain on your bedding, couch and carpet and wait for you or your dog to come by. 

Wash all sheets, blankets, pillow cases, pillows, clothes, small rugs, dog bed cushions and anything else that will fit in your washing machine with hot water when at all possible. You may also choose to hand wash some items in the bathtub using warm water and a lot of soap.

3)  As the items are being washed and you have de-fleaed your Chihuahua you should keep your dog somewhere safe until you are done cleaning the home so that he is not exposed to them. Be careful that while transporting your dog that you do not pass any area in which a flea can jump on him. While he is flea-free you can then continue washing the items and then the vacuuming must begin.
4) Vacuum all of the floors and then empty the vacuum container or put in a new bag. Then, repeat the process. It is recommended to vacuum the couch and all chairs in the same manner.

Be sure to lift objects, as fleas, larvae and pupae may lurk beneath them. Never assume that an area is not infested; assume that every square inch is a possible hiding spot needing to be cleaned.

5) You may want to use a flea bomb ("Let's get 'em all in one shot!"); however there are some things to be aware of. With most, the chemicals will not reach certain areas like under the bed, between pillows or inside closets. For this reason, the bomb alone may not wipe out all of the fleas. In addition, food and dishware must be covered. Finally, the chemicals may not affect fleas that are still in cocoons. 
The Fleas are Gone Now, How Do I Protect My Chihuahua?

Now that you made it through the exhausting part of getting rid of the fleas, prevention will seem easy. You should:
  • Keep the grass mowed very short in your yard
  • Do not allow your Chihuahua to run through fields of tall grass
  • Be careful about which dogs your dog interacts with - If you see another dog scratching or acting as if he may have fleas, err on the side of caution and keep your Chihuahua a safe distance away (more than 6 feet)
  • Use a good flea prevention method, not allowing any lapses to take place 
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