Do you suspect that your dog might have fleas, but you are not sure? If so, then you are in the right place. In this article, we will explain how to check your dog for fleas. Plus we take a look at how to get rid of fleas on dogs.
How to Tell if Your Dog Has Fleas
Has s/he been scratching more than usual? Are one or members of your household being bitten? Have you seen fleas jumping in the carpet, bedding or furniture?
In our house, if my wife gets a flea bite, the dog gets it – treatment that is, regardless! He’s guilty until proven innocent. But the thing is, my wife could have picked up the flea bite anywhere and not from our dog.
So for us, there are three telltale signs that our dog might have fleas. 1) my wife gets flea bites – they seem to like her more than me. 2) I see my dog scratching more than usual so I have to ask myself; does my dog have fleas or is he just having a good old scratch, as dogs do? 3) The most obvious, I see one or more fleas, either on our dog or in places he’s been.
What Do Dog Fleas Look Like
I have always liked my granddad’s motto: ‘Always know thy enemy.’ So with that in mind, let’s get to know thy enemy.
With that in mind, I’d say the first thing to learn is how to identify a Dog Flea.
Adult dog fleas are small, flat-bodied insects that range in color from reddish brown to black. Dog fleas are tiny ranging in size from only 1/16 to 1/8 (1 – 2.5 mm) of an inch long.
Depending on the environment, a dog fleas complete life cycle can range anywhere from 16 days to 21 months. In some instances, the eggs can lay dormant for years.
For more detailed information go to Wikipedia: Dog Fleas
How to Catch a Dog Flea
Although Dog Fleas are wingless, they are known for their extraordinary ability to jump vast distances very quickly thanks to their six long legs. It is this agility to cover great distances quickly that makes fleas so troublesome. They are almost impossible for humans and our pets to catch.
However, they can also be tricky to catch for another reason: the environment in which they reside, carpet, bedding, and your dog fur. And the darker your dog’s fur, the harder fleas are to spot.
The trick is to think like a flea. If you were a flea where would you most likely hang out? Fleas like to hang out in joins in the carpet and where the carpet meets the wall, in bedding – your and your dogs – and on the bellies, arm/leg pits and around the groin areas of your dog.
However, if you don’t see any fleas, that’s okay because they do leave clues, their calling cards if you like. Much like flies, you can always tell where they have been. Because like fly poop on the ceiling, you can look for signs of dog flea poop on your dog. What you are looking for are tiny specks that look like dirt that turn reddish brown when wet.
Use a damp tissue to dab any speck that you think may be dog flea poop and if they turn reddish brown, you know you have identified dog flea poop. However, this only confirms that your dog has HAD fleas recently. I say ‘recently’ because if your flea treatment is working as it should then the flea/s may well be long dead.
Most flea treatments work from within the dog not the outer. The treatment is in the dogs’ bloodstream so that when the flea bites your dog, it gets a mouth full of poison and dies in a few hours. However, don’t stop looking; there are other ways to confirm where or not your dog has fleas.
How to Check For Dog Fleas
Having a routine of regularly checking your dog for fleas is a great way to prevent an infestation getting out of control. The bigger the outbreak, the harder it is to eradicate it. Furthermore, the longer a flea infestation goes untreated the more likely it is that your dog will experience other flea related health conditions and diseases.
Not to mention the unnecessary discomfort for members of your household – and the embarrassment when guest become aware that your house has “fleas!”
Checking for fleas should become second nature whenever you are handling your dog. It’s a quick, effortless and straightforward process. However, if you don’t have a routine start by picking a time of day that you will naturally handle your dog, it could be first thing in the morning or last thing at night as you sit to watch the television with your dog on your lap. Or it might be after you return from walking your dog. You choose a time that suits you and your dog.
Aside from your routine, if you notice that your dog is scratching more than usual then stop what you are doing and check your dog over. It might be that your dog has just picked one flea up from the earth and its a one-off – or it might be the early signs of an infestation. Either way, a quick check should establish which and you can then decide if you need to do anything further.
If you have a puppy that is infested with fleas, then I suggest you take them to the vet immediately for treatment. If left untreated an infestation of fleas can cause anemia or even death if for young puppies.
Three Ways to Check For Dog Fleas
One: White Towel Test
As the title suggests you will need a white towel or sheet – or if you have white tiles as I do in our foyer, use that area of your house. This method works exceptionally well if your dog has dark or thick fur.
Lay your dog on their side on top of the white surface and then brush them down. The obvious thing that you are looking for is fleas on the white surface. However, in the absence of any dog fleas look for specks of dirt or dark spots falling off onto the sheet.
The advantage of using a white surface is that adult dog fleas are easy to identify. Sometimes you may find that there is a mix of dead ones and very active adult fleas which will jump about and disappear very quickly so you need to be alert. It also pays to have good lighting (and your glasses on) so that you can be sure you don’t miss any.
If your dog has or recently had, fleas then you will find lots of flea poop (as mentioned above) or flea dirt which is a mix of blood and flea poop falling onto the white surface. The simple test is to dampen a tissue and then dab those specks, and if they turn a reddish brown color, then you can be reasonably sure that your dog has fleas.
Two: Visual Inspection for Dog Fleas
Looking for dog fleas can be like looking for needles in a haystack because adult dog fleas are tiny, measuring 1/16 – 1/8 of an inch. And they move, jump about, very fast. If your dog only has one or two fleas that they picked while out walking or playing, then it might be tough to find them.
Furthermore, if your dog has a think coat of fur or is dark in color, then it may be almost impossible to see. However, on the other hand, if your dog is infested with fleas then it will be quite obvious.
The easiest way to visually check your dog for fleas is to lay them on their side or back if they like that and start by checking the abdomen, then move to the base of the tail and head. If there is no sign of fleas, look for other evidence such as flea poop or signs of flea bites and broken skin.
Three: Using a Dog Flea Comb
Using a dog flea comb and a bowl of hot soapy water is a much easier way to detect and remove fleas than doing it by hand and trying to squash them – which doesn’t always work – whats more, dog flea combs are inexpensive.
If your dog has fleas, you will notice that they get caught between the teeth of the comb as you brush your dog’s fur. The best way to kill them is to dip the comb in a bowl of hot soapy water. You need to be quick though, or they will jump away.
What to Do if Your Dog Has Fleas
When you first discover that your dog has fleas, it can be quite overwhelming. Where do you start? Well, we hope that we have managed to answer that question on this page — the next step is to find the best flea treatment for your dog.
Furthermore, if you have more than one pet, you will need to check them all. If one has fleas, then the chances are they all will. And they will all need treating. You can’t treat one and not treat the others. Likewise with their shelters or places of sleep, and bedding, they will all need cleaning. Otherwise, you will enter a never-ending cycle of reinfestation between your pets.
What is the Best Flea Treatment For Dogs
Over the years I have tried and tested many different treatment options. The one that’s working for me and my dogs at the moment is Advantage [Affiliate link]. However, this may or may not be the best solution for your dog. Therefore I suggest that you talk with your local vet or dog breeders association your bread of dog.
You may want to check out my article Best Flea Treatment For Dogs
Prevention is Better Than Any Cure
Now the chances of our dog having fleas are slim to none – at least I’d like to think that were the case – don’t we all! That’s because we treat him monthly with Advantage [Affiliate link] which has always worked fine. And because we handle him every day – not only do we cuddle, pat and play with him, we also have a routine of grooming him almost every day. And its while we are doing any of these things that we, almost subconsciously, check him for fleas. That way we can catch any infestation of fleas early.
We also keep his kennel and bedding clean – we hose out the kennel weekly, and his bedding gets washed every time we do our bedding which is also weekly. He swims in the river several times a week, and we bath him every couple of months – or if he needs it.
As an aside, have you noticed that while reading this article about fleas that you have been scratching, or maybe resisting the urge to scratch an itch. Or maybe you can feel, or think you can feel, something tickling your foot, leg, arm - do you have fleas? Funny how that works 🙂
Okay, back to dogs and fleas. Whenever we have reason to suspect that our dog might have picked a flea or two we give him a quick inspection to see if we can find any evidence of fleas to be sure. Catching an infestation early before it gets out of control and infests the rest of the house is always preferable.
As the old saying goes, prevention is better than any cure, so by using a reliable flea treatment, keeping their kennel/crate/bedding/enclosure clean and tidy, you should be able to prevent your dog getting an infestation of fleas.
However, your dog will pick up fleas from the environment and so it’s a fact of life, “if you have a dog you are likely to experience the odd flea or two”. However, you need to always make sure that it is just the odd flea that s/he has picked up and not the early warning sign that it is an infestation.
Fleas can multiply exceptionally quickly, and their eggs can lay dormant in places like your carpet for many years. They hatch when they deem the environment favorable. Therefore, catching an infestation early on makes it easier to treat
Have you ever had the experience of going away for a week or two in the summer and while you are away your house is all locked up and gets very warm inside. Then when you return home and start to walk about the house, you are suddenly attacked by fleas?
That is because eggs were laying dormant until the house was nice and warm and then they picked up on the vibrations from you walking about the house, which to them was the sign Dinner is Served!
Prevention is better than any cure
Check your dog regularly for fleas
Keep you dogs bedding, kennel and other areas hygienically clean
Use a reliable dog flea treatment – that works for your dog