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How to Tell if Your Dog Has Fleas (And How to Get Rid of Them)

If you’ve noticed your dog scratching recently, your mind most likely jumps to fleas – a parasite that bites your dog and leads to skin irritation.

But fleas aren’t just a source of irritation, bites from these pests can lead to many other health-related issues like anemia or tapeworms. That’s why it’s so important to start treatment right away.

As a pet parent, recognizing the signs of fleas on your dog is crucial to getting your pup happy and healthy as soon as possible. Read on to learn how to tell if your dog has fleas and how to treat them.

Symptoms of Fleas in Dogs

Scratching is one of the most obvious symptoms of fleas in your dog. Many pets are allergic to flea saliva, causing them to scratch repeatedly at their irritated skin.

The parasites bite your dog’s skin, often leaving behind small, red bites that can get bigger as your dog scratches them.

Other common signs of fleas include:

  • Small, reddish-brown dots (fleas) all over your dog’s skin
  • “Flea dirt” along your dog’s skin and fur (like flakes of pepper)
  • Hair loss
  • Pale gums
  • Small white ovals (flea eggs) around your home

A flea

How to Check Your Dog for Fleas: 3 Simple Steps

If you’ve noticed that your dog is scratching profusely, fleas are a likely cause. To confirm that your dog has fleas, you’ll need to check their skin and fur thoroughly for signs. Here’s how:

1) Inspect Your Dog’s Skin

If your dog has fleas, you’ll likely be able to see them if you look closely at the exposed parts of their skin or in areas that fleas like to gather. Carefully inspect your dog’s skin for small, reddish-brown dots or red, irritated flea bites.

Fleas are tiny and they can also jump, so watch for any movement along your dog’s skin and fur.

You can also part your pup’s fur along the warmer crevices of their body like the armpit or groin area – fleas prefer warm, protected places.

2) Look for Flea Dirt

Along with the moving bugs, fleas also often leave “flea dirt” behind on your dog’s fur. Flea dirt looks like flakes of black pepper sprinkled everywhere, but it’s really flea feces and a key sign that your dog is infested.

You can also use a fine-toothed comb to comb through your dog’s fur and make it easier to collect flea dirt, eggs, or adult fleas.

3) Check Your Skin for Flea Bites

Fleas don’t only bite pets – they can also bite you. Look around your body for any sign of flea bites. These appear as small, red bites that are often in clusters.

Just like on dogs, they’re likely to be in warm, well-protected areas like your armpits or waist. You can also check areas like your legs or ankles.

A dog being bathed

How to Get Rid of Fleas

Fleas can be tricky to get rid of because of how quickly they reproduce. The parasites can live up to 100 days, and a single adult flea can lay up to 40 eggs a day. Because of this, the issue can quickly get out of hand if you don’t start treating them right away.

Here are a few of the most common and effective ways to treat your dog’s fleas:

Talk to Your Vet

Before trying any kind of treatment, always talk to your vet. There are a variety of treatment options available, including different types of medications and shampoos.

Your veterinarian will know your dog’s medical history and they’ll be able to make expert recommendations for which treatment options are best for your pup. They can also write you a prescription, which you’ll need for most flea medications.

Use Flea Treatments

Medication is one of the most common treatment methods available for fleas. The medication is typically provided orally because this is the fastest way to treat the pests. Oral medication goes directly into your dog’s bloodstream, stopping fleas at their source.

Topical medications are another option. These are typically applied on your dog’s neck, and work similarly to absorb into your dog’s bloodstream to stop fleas.

Finally, a variety of all-natural options are available as well. These include diatomaceous earth, essential oils, and even apple cider vinegar. Natural flea treatments can be an excellent alternative to chemical-based treatments, but they’re not always as effective.

The most important thing to remember is to consult your veterinarian before beginning any treatment. They’ll be able to help you choose the best option for your dog based on their unique needs and overall health.

Give Your Dog a Flea Bath

You’ll need to bathe your dog to remove the fleas and flea dirt, as well as get rid of any eggs.

Instead of your dog’s regular shampoo, you’ll want to use a flea and tick shampoo that helps kill off remaining adult fleas. Talk to your vet for recommendations on flea and tick shampoos to use for your pup.

Once you’ve shampooed and rinsed your dog, go through their fur with a flea comb – a fine-tooth comb designed to remove eggs and flea dirt from your dog’s fur. Comb through their fur slowly and carefully to make sure nothing is missed.

Clean Your Home Thoroughly

Unfortunately, a flea infestation doesn’t stop with your dog. Fleas can also live in your home and on your bedding and furniture. To get rid of them, you’ll need to deep clean your home and continue regular cleaning maintenance to prevent future infestations.

Start by vacuuming your home thoroughly, including furniture, closets, rugs, and any other crevices where fleas could hide. Throw the collected dirt into a sealable container or bag to prevent anything from escaping, and toss it into an outside trash can.

It’s a great idea to steam clean your carpets, bedding, and other upholstery. The hot steam and soap combination kills fleas in all stages of their life cycle. You should also toss your bedding into the washing machine and run a hot cycle. And don’t forget to wash your dog’s bed!

Vacuuming a home

The Best Way to Prevent Fleas in Dogs

The best treatment for fleas in dogs is to prevent them in the first place. Use a flea preventative on a regular basis to keep fleas, ticks, and other parasites from infecting your pup.

Preventatives come in the form of pills or chews, topical treatments, flea collars, and more. Natural options l collars infused with essential oils are also available.

Talk to your vet about the best preventative options for your pup, and how often you’ll need to treat your dog. Most flea preventatives are given monthly, and it’s important to stick to the recommended routine.

If you work quickly and diligently to treat and remove your dog’s fleas, and then follow up with a flea preventative routine, getting rid of your dog’s fleas can be simple.

Just remember to be patient, as it can take some time to fully eliminate the problem. And always consult with your veterinarian for expert advice on how to treat and prevent fleas in dogs.