Pest Resources

How To Tell If Your Dog Has Fleas


How to tell if your dog has fleas, there are signs to look at and ways to check your dog for fleas and in this article, we are here to show you how and help answer your questions.

Have you noticed your dog scratching a lot and biting at its fur causing hair loss? It could be that your dog has fleas.

There are other skin conditions that can cause the same scratching and symptoms every dog owner should know how to check for.

Some Information On The Flea Life Cycle

A female flea cannot lay eggs until she has had a blood meal, after that up to 20 eggs can be laid in a day.

The eggs can fall off your dog and land in carpets etc after a short time they hatch into larvae who feed on flea dirt. The larvae grow and become pupae, they will make a cocoon and develop into adult fleas. The entire process can take from 2 weeks to a couple of months.

How Did My Dog Get Fleas?


Dogs are very sociable animals and will come into close contact with other pets they come across.

Dogs and cats can become infested with fleas and ticks from contact with other animals, and simply by just brushing past a bush.

If you have just moved into a new property and the previous owner had pets with fleas, the flea pupae can lay dormant in the carpets until a new host arrives. Once they sense carbon dioxide and movement they will emerge and jump on the passing host for a blood meal.

Types Of Fleas Found In The United States

There are hundreds of different fleas in the States here are some of them:

Cat fleas-(Ctenocephalides Felis) These are the most common and will bite cats and dogs.

Dog fleas- (Ctenocephalides Canis) A dog flea will prey on the same hosts as cat fleas but are not as common as cat fleas.

Human fleas- These pests enjoy blood from humans and pigs.

Are Fleas On Dogs Visible?

An adult flea is very small, about an eighth of an inch, they are visible to the human eye, and they are reddish-brown in color.

Adult fleas cannot fly but they can jump long distances with their powerful hind legs.

Symptoms Of fFeas

Apart from constant itching and biting your dog may also have some of these other symptoms:

Take a close look at your dogs’ skin, are the areas of redness? Does the skin look sore, are there any scabs that have formed?

If your dog constantly bites at his or her skin there may be patches of hair loss and areas of dry skin, another symptom that your dog has fleas. If left untreated it could result in an infection developing.


We thought we should mention ticks as they are bloodsuckers like fleas that can also be picked up outside. The American kennel club has funded research into tick-borne diseases.

Ticks can cause similar symptoms to fleas, and ticks can carry disease, as do fleas.

Ticks can be treated with :

  • Tick collars.
  • Topical treatments.
  • Oral medication.

Flea Bites And Flea Allergies

When the fleas on your dog bite it injects flea saliva from their salivary glands that contain an anticoagulant to keep the blood flowing and an anaesthetic so the host cannot feel the insect bites.

In response, a dog will release histamine to fight off the invading flea saliva. This will cause the bite area to become larger and redder, some dogs may have a greater reaction and a more severe irritation.

Take A Close Look At Your Dogs’ Skin

Search through your dog’s fur and skin, have you noticed any fleas? They are visible to the naked eye, they crawl through the fur and jump, they are wingless so they are unable to fly.

Where Are The Adult Fleas Most Likely To Be On My Dog?

Adult fleas like to be warm, with this in mind take a look under your dogs’ armpit, and your pet’s belly and groin areas, you will possibly have noticed the dog scratching in these areas.

Have your dog lie down and carefully brush the areas with your fingers checking for fleas as you do so.

Part the fur and look carefully at your dog’s skin. If fleas are there you may see them along with the redness of the skin that also appears bumpy due to flea bites.

You might see flea larvae and cocoons that are yet to hatch.

If you cannot find any fleas on your dog and the poor thing is still scratching take him or her along to the vet who can determine if it is flea allergies or something else causing the irritation.

Flea dirt

As you look at your dog’s fur and dog’s skin you may see black specks that resemble black pepper, this is what is known as flea dirt, and is basically dried blood in flea droppings, flea poo!

To be sure it is flea dirt and not just regular dirt collect some up and put on a white paper towel add a few drops of water to it, if it turns a dark reddish-brown color then it is flea dirt and your dog has fleas, red comes from your dog’s blood.

Flea dirt is another sign of a flea infestation.

Comb your dog’s fur


Firstly, have your dog stand on a white paper towel or a white sheet, this makes fleas and flea dirt easier to spot as they jump.

Use a fine-toothed flea comb to comb through your dog’s fur, do so close to the dog’s skin. If your dog has fleas the flea comb should pick up some, if you do, place them in a small bowl of soapy water to get rid of them. Empty the bowl of soapy water and fleas as soon as you have finished.

Pale gums

Pale gums can indicate anaemia, which can mean a serious flea infestation, fleas can consume 15 times their body weight in blood which can cause anaemia in a dog.

The anaemia is due to blood loss and your dog cannot produce enough blood cells quickly enough to replace the loss.

Lay a light trap

This light trap should be placed at night as fleas are generally nocturnal.

Place bowls around infested areas with soapy water in and place under a light. The dish soap will trap the fleas and you will have your evidence of dog fleas.

Look out for flea eggs and tapeworm

These two are signs of a flea problem, fleas may be carrying tapeworm larvae.

Tapeworms are internal parasites so if your dog swallows a tapeworm infected flea or flea egg your dog may be infected with tapeworms.

Signs of tapeworm are segments that look like rice grains and you may find them in your dogs’ bedding. Flea eggs are tiny white ovals.

White socks

A great way to check for fleas in the home is to walk around the house for 10 minutes at least in long socks, take them off and check for fleas.

Are You As A Pet Owner Getting Flea Bites?

Flea bites on humans in a house infested with fleas are common, the bites usually appear at the bottom of the legs and around the ankles, but can be found further up. If you notice red itchy bites in these areas it could be fleas causing them.

Fleas will bite humans and animals if they are not fussy so long as they get a blood meal.

Flea Treatments For Dog’s

As a caring pet owner, you will want to get rid of the fleas as quickly as possible. There are many flea products available in-store or online, some treat other parasites too.

Try a  treatment shampoo, this will give your dog quick relief. You should start to see fleas coming off your dog’s coat straight away.

The American Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals suggests you follow the instructions for a flea treatment carefully and if you have a puppy or small pet dog check the product is appropriate.

Some brands will kill an adult flea and stop flea eggs from hatching.

You could invest in a flea collar that will protect your dog for many months.

Also available is a spot treatment that is usually applied on the back of the neck, this gets into the bloodstream and kills fleas on contact.

If your dog is still scratching after a treatment we suggest you speak to your vet for further advice.

How Often Should I Treat My Dog For Fleas?

Products vary, you should always read the guide or you can consult your vet for advice and to get a treatment and prevention plan set up.

How Can I Prevent Fleas?

Pet owners should get a treatment plan for their dog or cat to prevent the return of fleas.

Treat your dog regularly with a spot treatment.

Give your dog a flea collar. dog-with-flea-coller

Wash your pet bedding regularly.

Vacuum regularly.

Spray a household flea spray.

When you return from a walk check through the fur for fleas before they can get brought indoors.


Never use a dog flea treatment on your cat, the chemicals used to kill fleas on a dog are different to those used to kill fleas on cats. It could be fatal for your cat.

And Finally,

We hope you have found this article helpful, now you know how to tell if your dog has fleas and how to treat and prevent fleas, we hope you will now be flea free.

Check out the rest of our website for more helpful tips and advice.

Should you have any questions for us please feel free to drop us an email, we do our best to respond as quickly as possible.

Good Luck!

Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each control method, product and process to prevent infestations effectively. 

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