Can my dog get fleas from the beach?

April 15, 2017 2 Comments

True sand fleas are present in sandy areas such as beaches and marshes and are crustaceans, not insects and are not harmful

Yes, but not the kind you think.

What are sand fleas?

There are two types of fleas. The first type is the most well-known: the flightless insect that jumps onto your dog, particularly in warmer months, bites and feeds off the pup, and ultimately lays eggs. These are the fleas that will cause itching, scratching and a home infestation if not addressed immediately.

The other type of flea is called the sand flea, a parasitic crustacean often found in tropical regions. While sand fleas are very common in the West Indies and South and Central America, they can also be found in the United States. Sand fleas can bite and burrow into human or animal skin. Since sand fleas are not technically insects but crustaceans, over-the-counter flea and tick preventatives are not effective.

“Sand fleas are slightly larger – about as long as a rice grain – and have clear wings, enabling them to hop from animal to animal at a quicker pace”, reports HartzFlea.com. “But like regular fleas, these tiny sand crustaceans love to burrow in the coat of your dog and feed off of its blood, causing pain and discomfort in your beloved pet.” Sand fleas can actually cause more harm to dogs than regular fleas. Left untreated, a dog infected by sand fleas can develop anemia and/or liver damage.

What are the symptoms and treatment of sand flea bites?

Symptoms of sand flea bites include mosquito-like bites, black spots in the middle of the swollen areas (these may be breeding sand fleas), fever and relentless scratching.

Veterinarians must remove sand fleas directly from under your pup’s skin. Most likely, your vet will recommend cleaning the treated skin with alcohol or another disinfectant to prevent infection.

5 ways to prevent sand flea bites on you and your dog

1. Avoid the beach after it rains. Avoid visiting the beach immediately after a rainfall. Sand fleas prefer cool air and cloud cover and are particularly aggressive when the air cools down after it rains.

2. Go to the beach mid-day. Sand fleas are more active in the early morning and evening when the sun is not burning hot and high in the sky.

3. Bring a towel or beach mat. Creating a simple barrier between you and the sand will minimize the risk of being bitten. Sit or lay on a large beach towel, mat or bedsheet so your feet, ankles and limbs aren't resting in the sand.

4. Don't dig. Sand fleas commonly attack feet, ankles and calves since these are easy targets. Avoid burying your feet in the sand, and prevent your pup from digging and burrowing.

5. Shower after leaving the beach. Rinse off right after leaving the beach (your dog included) and shake out your beach towels to reduce the risk of transporting sand fleas into your car or home.

Additional resources





2 Responses

DJANGO
DJANGO

July 01, 2019

@DEBI Hello and thanks for reaching out! Since sand fleas are not insects but crustaceans, over-the-counter flea and tick preventatives are not effective. I’m not sure where you are located, but generally speaking sand fleas are not a huge concern for dog owners in the United States. Although they might be prevalent at certain beaches (which largely depends on geography), the likelihood of a sand flea burrowing under your dog’s skin after a short beach visit is slim. Also, unlike standard ‘house fleas’ which we dog owners are most aware of (i.e. the insects that can proliferate on a dog’s body and ultimately infect a house ), sand fleas will not travel home with you or your dog and spread throughout your home.

If you are concerned about sand fleas, I advise contacting the local sheriff and/or tourism office in the beach town that you are visiting. Ask them if their beaches are known for sand fleas. If yes, I’d then reach out directly to your vet to see what topical ointments (if any) are best for sand flea bite treatment. We at DJANGO are not medical professionals, so we’d never advise you to use a certain medicine or topical ointment for your pup. These matters are best addressed by a licenced veterinarian.

Hope this helps! Hope you and your pup have a wonderful summer.

Debi
Debi

July 01, 2019

I’m going to the beach and wanted to take my dog, but I’m super worried about sand fleas. Your article says to rinse yourself and your pet after being in the sand. Would any kind of flea shampoo be best to use. My dog already has taken a flea & tick med. from when we went camping. I don’t want to mix to many flea products.

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