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Can my dog get fleas from the beach?

April 15, 2017

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.

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