Is your Golden Retriever scratching more than ever? Are you seeing raised, red dots on its skin? If so, your dog is likely suffering from a flea infestation. Flea bites on Golden Retriever may not seem serious at first, but it can cause a slew of problems if not addressed right away. Bald patches, infected wounds, and even anemia may set in if the infestation isn’t treated.
Unlike ticks, fleas can jump long distances. This allows them to transfer from one host to another without being seen. It’s important to curb this infestation, or it will wreak havoc on your pet’s body.
In this post, I will discuss how to deal with flea bites and where your dog probably got the pest. Again, your quick action for this problem will save your Goldie from a lot of suffering.
Characteristics of dog fleas
Dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis) are 1/16” to 1/8” long. Due to their minuscule size, these fleas are almost invisible to the human eye. The key here is spotting their dark brown color droppings that may appear sand-like or pepper sprinkled all over your dog’s coat.
Take note that fleas are quite loyal parasites. A flea can stay on your dog’s coat for around 100 days. And unlike ticks, they tend to settle on a host once they landed on it. Still, it doesn’t erase the possibility of spreading the infestation to other dogs nearby.
Moreover, the adult fleas will feed on the host dog. They tend to leave a series of bites, which look like red dots. While the adults feed, the eggs and larvae prosper around your house. And when they hatch and mature, they will launch a massive attack on your household. It’s like a ticking time bomb of flea infestation that can affect other furry animals like cats, rabbits, and birds.
These flea bites are very itchy, and as they add up over the days, your Golden Retriever will be in great discomfort. You need to treat not just the bites but also the infestation.
Where do Golden Retrievers get fleas?
Believe it or not, your Golden Retriever can acquire fleas just about anywhere. And because they have thick fur, pet owners only notice signs of the infestation once it’s already in the advanced stage.
To give you an idea, here are some of the common ways your Golden Retriever can get the dreaded bloodsuckers:
- The dog park. Dog parks are cesspools of parasites and infections. The fleas from another dog can jump into your Golden Retriever during playtime. Also, fleas can fall off the ground, which is then transferred to your pet.
- Your own yard. Even your own yard can harbor nasty fleas. Wild animals like rabbits, deer, squirrels, and birds can drop fleas on your property. And when your Golden Retriever gets to play and roll over the grass, the fleas can easily latch on the dog’s coat.
- The groomer. A grooming shop welcomes dozens of dogs from different places. This also means it’s a hotspot for a potential flea infestation. Still, this will only occur if the groomer isn’t careful about sanitizing the area.
- Your visitors. While fleas tend to seek animals as hosts, they can also cling to clothes and objects your guests have with them. After hitchhiking, the fleas will then hop off to your home and into your dog.
- From you. Before you put the blame on others, you should also consider the possibility that you brought the fleas home. Day-to-day contact with communal areas increase the risk of you bringing the pest to your Golden Retriever.
What do flea bites look like on Golden Retrievers?
Flea bites look like red and raised bumps all over your dog’s skin. It can be found all over your Goldie’s body, but it tends to be concentrated on the groin, hind legs, tail, and ribcage. In advanced infestations, the fleas will also bite on your Golden Retriever’s ear flaps and head.
Take note that it’s rare for fleas to bite once. Usually, an adult flea will bite three times in a row, known as the ‘breakfast, lunch, and dinner’ marks. Also, the bites could have a halo-like center.
If the infestation is in its advanced stage, your Golden Retriever would have thinning fur and bald patches. This is mainly due to the excessive scratching brought by the itchiness of the bites.
How to cure flea bites on Golden Retriever
If fleas are bombarding your dog, the following steps will help cure the bites:
1. Comb your dog using a flea comb
The first step to ease your dog’s flea bites is to comb it using a flea comb. This grooming tool has dense teeth that will lift and remove adult fleas latched on your Goldie’s coat. Your dog will also like the soothing sensation since it scratches the bites. Just be careful not to apply too much pressure, or it will cause wounds.
Before you brush, make sure that you have a container with water and dish soap. This is where you’ll dunk all the fleas you’re going to collect. It will prevent the fleas from escaping and hopping back to your dog for more bites.
2. Give your dog a flea bath
The most soothing solution for flea bites is an oatmeal bath. This will help ease the itchiness of the bites while promoting faster healing of the wounds. Aside from that, a flea bath can help neutralize infection to prevent further irritation.
You can use an over-the-counter flea shampoo for dogs. Let your Golden Retriever soak on it for 10 to 15 minutes so that the formula will get into the bite wounds. Other pet owners add a small amount of dish soap to kill the remaining fleas on the dog’s coat. You can also use white vinegar as a killing agent for pesky fleas.
3. Apply a topical flea medication
Once your dog is off the bath, you can apply a topical flea medication. These are drops that you need to apply right between your Golden Retriever’s shoulder blades. It’s important to apply it on this part, so your dog won’t lick the treatment. There’s no need to spread it all over the dog’s body since the medication will automatically disperse itself.
The following are the most commonly used topical flea treatments on canines:
- Imidacloprid. This active ingredient attacks the nervous system of adult and larvae fleas. It mimics the behavior of nicotine, which then paralyzes and kills the insect.
- Fipronil. Similar to Imidacloprid, Fipronil also attacks the fleas’ nervous system. In about a day, it can disperse all over your dog’s body by mixing on its natural skin oils. It has a slow-release characteristic, so each treatment lasts for around a month.
- Pyrethroids. Pyrethroids are organic substances, though you can also find synthetic versions in the market. This works by disrupting the fleas’ sodium channel. However, this means that pyrethroids are only effective on adult fleas.
Take note that many topical flea treatments in the market contain a mixture of these three substances. This makes it more potent and effective on fleas across life stages.
4. Ask the vet for injectable medications
In worst cases, you can bring your dog to the vet’s clinic to ask for injectable medications. This is the best solution if the flea infestation has taken over your Golden Retriever’s coat.
Corticosteroids are popular options, but some vets will not advise this due to the list of potential side effects. In this case, your dog’s vet can consider CytoPoint as an alternative.
CytoPoint is a commercial medication used to ease the symptoms of atopic dermatitis in dogs. This medication has engineered antibodies that neutralize pathogens that may enter the flea bites.
It won’t cure flea bites per se, but it will soothe itching and prevent further discomfort on your Golden Retriever.
Take note that only a licensed vet should administer CytoPoint to your dog. It’s more of an antibody protein than a drug, so it has minimal to zero side effects. So far, the only observed side effect is the treatment not working.
The only downside to CytoPoint is its expensive cost for large dogs like Golden Retrievers. Also, your dog may need multiple administrations based on the extent of the flea bites.
How to get rid of flea infestation at home
Take note that it’s not enough that you treat the bites on your Golden Retriever. It’s also crucial to eliminate the remaining flea population in your home. That’s the only way to guarantee that your pooch won’t get more bites. Here’s a quick checklist of what you need to do:
- Vacuum-clean your house. The very first thing you need to do is to vacuum all floor surfaces on your home. Also, use a crevice tool to reach hidden areas where the flea eggs and larvae might be hiding. I suggest investing in a powerful vacuum with a strong suction that can lift flea eggs off carpets.
- Use a steam cleaner. After vacuuming, you should steam-clean all your upholstery and carpets. You can also add a small amount of soap to guarantee that all the fleas have been exterminated.
- Wash your bedding. Fleas can hide on your sheets, pillows, and other plush items. Toss all of it in a pre-wash made of vinegar and water. Let it soak before washing it normally on the washing machine. And if the fabric type permits, you can machine-dry your sheets using mid to high heat to kill the remaining fleas.
- Clean your dog’s toys and bed. Once you’re done cleaning your bedding, you should wash your Golden Retriever’s bed and toys next. You can also use the same pre-wash here. I suggest air-drying it in direct sunlight if it won’t cause damages to the material.
- Hire a professional exterminator. If your Golden Retriever still gets flea bites after you cleaned up your house, it’s best to hire a professional exterminator. The pest experts can get rid of every single flea in your home for a reasonable cost.
How to prevent fleas on Golden Retriever
When it comes to fleas, prevention is the only guaranteed cure. Whether your dog had a flea infestation before or not, it’s worth considering the following preventive tips:
- Put your dog on a flea collar. If you’re taking your dog to the park, dog kennel, or groomer, always use a flea collar. This will act as a shield against fleas should they land on your Golden Retriever’s coat. Flea collars are infused with topical flea treatments that will spread all over your dog’s body.
- Brush your dog regularly. Make it a habit to brush your Golden Retriever, so you’ll discover a flea infestation as early as possible. This way, it won’t spread on your home, and it will spare your dog from suffering.
- Consider limiting contact with other animals. Golden Retrievers love retrieving dead birds and squirrels. If your pooch has this personality, it’s best to keep them indoors. These animals can harbor fleas, aside from living dogs, cats, and similar pets.
- Always check your dog’s coat. Once a day, schedule at least 5 minutes of your time to check your dog’s coat. By doing this, you’ll be familiar with how your Goldie’s skin looks. You’ll know right away when there’s a flea bite that wasn’t there before.
- Keep your home clean. Always vacuum around your home, so you can pick up the fleas that may hitchhike and drop in your house. This will also prevent other parasites like ticks from getting into your Golden Retriever.
Reduce your dog’s time outdoors. If your Golden Retriever keeps on getting fleas, you should consider reducing its outdoor time. From there, check if the infestation will recur.
In this video. Dr. Mike from VetVid tells us more about how to protect your dog during the ‘flea season’.
The flea bites on Golden Retriever aren’t just itchy. It will also ruin the dog’s coat and cause a slew of infections. Once you’ve treated the bites, the next step is to eliminate the insects in your home. You should also utilize preventive measures, so your dog won’t suffer from another infestation.