How to Spot Fleas on Dogs: Signs, Solutions, and Prevention

How to Spot Fleas on Dogs: Signs, Solutions, and Prevention

Alpha Paw Sale

May 13, 2021

  • Fleas on dogs can cause itching and discomfort.
  • To spot fleas, check on the belly and back. Flip the hair back or use a flea comb–you may find live fleas or fine black flea dirt.
  • Fleas can be easily treated with effective and safe dog flea medications and other solutions.

Signs of Fleas on Dogs

Fleas can be irritating and annoying for you and your pet! If you enjoy sleeping with your dog, you want to be sure that your pet is flea-free. If your dog is itchy, this is one of the first signs of fleas. Sometimes, it may mean another issue, but typically, if you find your furry buddy scratching themselves more than usual, it’s most likely fleas. Here are a few more signs that you may indicate that your dog has fleas:

  • Chewing at the back
  • Scratching
  • Live fleas crawling on your dog
  • Black specks of “flea dirt” in your dog’s fur

How to spot fleas on dogs: signs & solutions

How To Check If Your Dog Has Fleas

There are a few places that fleas enjoy spending their time. The first place to check is on your dog’s belly. Give your pup a good belly scratch and flip through the thinner hair of the belly. If you see a small black bug crawling on your dog’s belly, this is likely a flea. Fleas on dogs also enjoy spending time on dogs’ backs, so you can also try flipping through the hair just above the tail to check for fleas.

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Another method to check for fleas is using a flea comb. Run the flea comb along your dog’s back and sides. If your dog has fleas, you will either catch a live flea in the flea comb or find flea dirt. Flea dirt is essentially flea poop or digested blood from where they have been feeding on your dog. To differentiate between dirt and flea dirt, place the debris on a white paper towel and put some hydrogen peroxide on it. If the debris turns from black to red, then you have just discovered flea poop!

Symptoms of Dog Flea Allergies

Some dogs can be highly allergic to fleas. Even just one flea can cause an allergic reaction in a dog allergic to fleas. Allergies in dogs are common, and the right vet-approved allergy chews for dogs can help keep symptoms at bay. To learn more about allergy medications in dogs, check out this guide to dog allergy medication.

Some signs that your dog may have a flea allergy include:

  • Extreme itchiness
  • Crusty skin
  • Redness of the skin
  • Hot spots or moist red areas on the skin
  • Hair loss
  • Skin infections

If you suspect your dog has a flea allergy, I strongly recommend visiting a veterinarian. They can prescribe your dog fast-acting medications to kill any fleas on your dog and prescribe medications to give your dog some relief from the incessant scratching. Your veterinarian may also need to prescribe antibiotics to your dog if they have a skin infection secondary to the flea allergy.

How to spot fleas on dogs: signs & solutions

Dog Flea Solutions

The good news is that there are many effective and safe flea medications available for purchase at your veterinary clinic or online. One of the most effective flea solutions is topical or oral flea preventatives. The CDC also offers solutions including treating the home environment or pet bedding. The following suggestions will ensure that you will likely never have to battle with fleas again!

Keep Your Dog on a Year-Round Flea Preventative

The single most effective way to get rid of fleas and prevent them from coming back is to keep your dog on a year-round flea preventative. Year-round is the key to effective flea treatment. Fleas can survive in the winter months inside and around homes, and some of the worst flea infestations I have witnessed have actually been in the winter months.

There are many safe flea options available. Some over the counter dog flea medication options that I recommend include:

  • Seresto Flea and Tick Collar: This is a great, affordable option as these collars last around 8 months and usually cost between $50 and $80. They are typically very safe and effective.
  • Advantage II Topical Flea Treatment: This is a monthly topical flea preventative that protects against fleas. This medication works well for fleas in my experience.
  • K9 Advantix II: This is a monthly topical flea preventative for dogs that protects against fleas and ticks. This product works well in my experience, but I do not recommend using in households with cats as this medication can be dangerous for cats.

There are other dog flea medication options available with a prescription from your veterinarian:

  • Nexgard Chewables: This product, a monthly oral chew for dogs, is one of the most effective flea products on the market. It protects against fleas and ticks.
  • Bravecto Chews: This is a great option for those who have a hard time remembering monthly prevention. This oral product lasts 3 months and acts as a flea and tick prevention.

Treat the Yard or Your Home

If you leave your pet on year-round flea prevention, then you will likely not need to treat the home with chemicals. If you are having an issue with a flea infestation, I recommend consulting with your veterinarian and a local pest control company. They may recommend that you have your yard sprayed or your home treated for fleas.

Wash Pet Bedding Regularly

When you are having an issue with fleas, it is important to wash your pet’s bedding regularly with hot water. This will kill any immature fleas or flea eggs that may be on your pet’s bedding. For easy to wash bedding, check out Alpha Paw’s Cozy Calming Pet Bed.

How to spot fleas on dogs: signs & solutions

Vacuum Regularly

If you see one adult flea, there are likely hundreds more eggs and immature fleas in your home. It is important to vacuum every few days when you are having an issue with fleas. Dispose of the vacuum bag in an outside trash can after vacuuming.

What Should I Do If My Dog Has Fleas?

If there are fleas on your dog, you should either speak with your veterinarian or try one of the flea solutions described above. It is pretty normal to continue seeing a few fleas for a month or two after you start these medications. If fleas are persistent or if you think your dog may be allergic to fleas, I recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian.

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Dr. Addie Reinhard, DVM

Member of Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts

Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced companion animal veterinarian who lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats. She graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, and currently practices in the central Kentucky region. Dr. Addie has special interests in preventative care, dermatology, and diseases, and she enjoys creating helpful educational resources related to these topics to help pet parents keep their four-legged family members happy and healthy. We love Dr. Addie’s passion for providing reliable veterinary insight and medical advice to help pet parents like us give their pups the happy & healthy lives they deserve!

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