How To Tell If Your Dog Has Fleas

And how to prevent them from coming back 🦟😮

Maybe you accidentally missed a dose of your dog’s monthly flea prevention, and you’re worried that she may have caught some while on a long walk.

Don’t worry. It isn’t the end of the world if your dog has fleas, as long as you take the right steps to treat them. But do you know how to tell if your dog actually has fleas?

The Dodo reached out to Dr. Jamie Richardson, medical chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary in New York City, to find out how to tell if your dog has fleas — and how to get rid of them if she does.

What do fleas look like?

Fleas are tiny (and we mean tiny), little bugs that are really difficult for most people to spot.

They only grow to around 2.5 millimeters long, so unless you have a dog with white fur, they can be really difficult to notice — especially if you aren’t actually looking.

Signs of fleas on dogs

Since it’s not always easy to spot tiny fleas on your dog, it’s important to watch out for the signs of irritation caused by fleas.

“Flea bites are itchy, and many animals are allergic to flea saliva, which can cause an intense allergic reaction and prompt constant biting/chewing at their skin,” Dr. Richardson told The Dodo.

Common signs of a flea infestation include:

  • Scratching, licking, rubbing, biting or chewing at the skin
  • Red, irritated skin
  • Restlessness and discomfort
  • Crusted skin in areas including the base of the tail, over the hips and around the thighs
  • Fur loss
  • Scabbing
  • Thickened or darkened skin as the condition becomes chronic

How to check for fleas

If your pet’s itching, you should definitely check for fleas. Some of the most common places are at the base of the neck and tail and the insides of the hindlimbs.

“You may also be able to see ‘flea dirt’ on your dog’s body,” Dr. Richardson said. “This looks a bit like black dandruff, and is actually digested blood that the fleas have excreted.”

The best way to determine whether it’s flea dirt is to brush it onto a white cloth and add a drop of water; if it turns reddish brown, that’s confirmation that your pup has fleas.

Another way to check for fleas is to carefully comb through your dog’s coat, checking both the comb and your dog for fleas.

You can try Hartz Groomer's Best Flea Comb for Dogs and Cats from Amazon for $3.77

How to get rid of fleas

If your dog has fleas, your vet can prescribe a number of medications to kill the fleas and provide protection against reinfestation. “They may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to help control skin irritation and soothe the itching,” Dr. Richardson said. “If the skin has become infected, an antibiotic may be prescribed.”

When dealing with a flea problem, not only does the pet need to be treated,
but the environment does as well.

Treating a flea infestation can be difficult. It may take weeks or even months to fully break the lifecycle of the fleas. Fully disinfecting your home and all of the things your pet comes into contact with is very important when it comes to eradicating your home of fleas.

Vacuum repeatedly.

“Meticulously vacuum to remove fleas, larvae and eggs from carpets and crevices,” Dr. Richardson said.

Wash everything.

Wash all bedding, fabrics and soft toys in hot water.

Consider a fogger.

According to Dr. Richardson, home ‘bombs’ or foggers (an aerosolized product that can help kill fleas and larvae in the home environment) is another strategy to help remove and kill fleas and flea eggs.

Try this Hot Shot No Mess Fogger from Amazon for $9.97

How to prevent fleas in dogs

Getting rid of fleas can be a frustrating and difficult process, so prevention is best — and thankfully quite simple.

One of the best ways to prevent flea infestations is by treating all of the pets in your home with a preventative medication.

“There are a number of different preventative treatments for fleas (including topical products that you apply to the back of your dog’s neck and oral products, such as

chewable tablets). Your vet can help determine which product is right for you and your dog.

Try a topical product like Revolution from Chewy for $128.19

Or an oral product like Bravecto Soft Chews for Dogs from Chewy for $59.99

“Most of these preventatives must be administered monthly, and it’s critical that you adhere to the monthly schedule. Missing even a single treatment — no matter what the season — could be the opening a flea needs to infest your dog,” Dr. Richardson said.

While fleas are definitely a nuisance, they aren’t the absolute end of the world. As long as you treat them fast (and prevent them correctly afterwards), you’ll get back to all that cuddling in no time.

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