How To Tell If Your Dog Has Fleas?


In winter months, flea is not a problem for your dogs, but as the temperature increases in spring and summer, dogs get fleas on them. Temperatures above 35°C and relative humidity of 70% and above accelerate the growth and activity of dog fleas. These fleas are insects that actively feed on the blood of human beings and dogs. These get on to the dogs’ fur, and manage their way to their skin. These stay hidden under their fur, bite on their skin, and feed on their blood. This causes severe itching and inflammation of the skin, which irritates the host, be it a dog or a human being. This article provides you with quality information on how to tell if your dog has fleas, how to treat your dog for fleas, how to prevent your dog from catching fleas, and much more.

Also Read: What to do when your dog has diarrhea?

How Do You Know If Your Dog Has Fleas?


1. Behavioral Symptoms

In cases of severe flea infestations, it is quite easy to spot these moving and jumping on and off your dog’s coat; while in case of minor infestations, you may observe that your dog is not at rest, and that he is licking, scratching or chewing more than usual on specific areas of his body. He may also shake his head and scratch his ears often when he has flea infestation.

2. His Skin And Coat

For you to actually see if your dog has fleas on him, you have to look fast. This is because these insects can jump really fast and really high. Besides, even an adult flea is quite tiny (1/16 to 1/8 of an inch). These are dorso-ventrally flat and are nearly black in color. The more the blood they consume, the lighter their body color appears.

3. How Do You Know If Your Dog Has Fleas On His Skin And Coat?

In order to check your dog for fleas, turn him upside down, and let him lie on his back. Inspect those areas that favor their hiding the best. Dog flea populations are more concentrated in the armpits and groin areas as these regions are warm and protected. Inspect his ears carefully. Look for signs of redness, scratching, dirt or blood. These can indicate the presence of fleas. If your pet has been scratching a lot, the skin on his belly, tail’s base and groin may look bumpy and red. Excessive scratching may also lead to hair loss in those areas where he has been aggressively scratching. There also may be black spots with scabbing on his skin.

Flea combs are available in the market. These have closely set teeth. Get one of these, and run it through your dog’s hair on his legs and his back. Fleas, if any, will be caught and pulled from your dog’s coat where these are hiding themselves. When you run the flea comb through his hair, make sure that you get close to his skin. This way you will get a higher chance of pulling off the fleas from their hideouts. In case you pull out some fleas, put them into a small bucket of soap water. Sometimes, it is quite difficult to see these fleas. Have a white paper towel or paper spread on the floor near your dog while you comb his hair. This will ensure that flea and flea dirt will fall off from your dog’s coat on to the paper.

Flea dirt is flea feces. To find out if the dirt that falls off from your dog’s coat is flea dirt or regular dirt, sprinkle some water on those over the white paper. If this dirt turns dark reddish brown, these are definitely flea dirt. As the reddish brown color, you see is the digested blood that the flea has excreted.

4. Your Pet’s Environment

Fleas from your dog’s body will fall off and will be found all over your house, wherever he goes, especially in those places where he stays or spends quite a lot of his time. Carefully check his bedding, feeding spot, and other favorite areas for flea or flea dirt.

Another way to tell if your dog has flees is none other than the “white socks” method. You can detect fleas or flea dirt in your house is to put on white socks and walk through those places where your dog frequently roams. Fleas or flea dirt lying over the floor in these places will be picked by your socks’ fabric and will be highly visible on the white background.

Another way to detect fleas is by the “light trap” method. At night before you switch off the lights, and keep a small bowl of dish-washing solution near the night lamp on the floor. The fleas will move towards the light, jump into the bowl, and are drowned. In the morning, several fleas may be found floating dead in the dish-washing solution.

Other Signs Include:

  • Allergic dermatitis
  • Pale gums
  • Tape worm infestation

Get Him Checked By A Vet

In cases when you are unable to detect the presence of fleas on your dog or in your house, but your dog continues to scratch himself excessively, even after you have carried out the entire flea eradication treatment on your pet as well as your house, it is time to have him checked by your vet. Your vet will find out the underlying cause behind your pet’s discomfort, and prescribe treatments.

Why Do Fleas Infest Dogs?

Fleas are lively and quick moving creatures. They can jump a long distance when they are in search of a host. It is said that they can travel thrice the length of a football field in a single night. They have three pairs of limbs that bestow them with excellent leaping abilities. They can jump to a height of 2 feet. Their laterally flattened bodies help them move quickly in a dog’s coat.

Their entire life cycle is completed in a period ranging from 16 days to 21 months, in accordance to the environmental conditions. Fleas are usually found on the abdomen, tail’s base and head of dogs. In case of severe infestations, fleas can live anywhere on the dog’s body. They feed on the dog’s blood once in a day or two, and usually stay on the dog for their entire lifetime.

What Are The Health Complications That Fleas Cause In Dogs?

Fleas can ingest an amount of blood that is 15 times higher than their own body weight. This can lead to anemia or the eventual loss of significant quantity of blood over time. This poses a great health risk to young puppies because it can be life threatening to have an insufficient number of red cells. Parasitic anemia of this kind can lead to pale gums, listlessness, and cold body temperature.

In some cases, dogs are highly sensitive to fleas’ saliva. In such a situation, a single fleabite can stimulate an allergic reaction in the dog. This is referred to as flea allergy dermatitis. This causes severe itching and discomfort in your dog. Signs such as hair loss, scabs, hot spots, and reddened skin are found. Besides, flea allergy dermatitis leads to skin infections in most cases.

Are Some Dogs Prone To Flea Infestation?

Dogs living in humid and warm climatic conditions are more susceptible to fleas. This is because fleas survive well at a temperature more than 35°C and a relative humidity of 70%. It is also a fact that those dogs that live outdoors are more susceptible to fleas than those living in houses.

What To Do If Your Dog Has Fleas?

Most of the dog owners worry as soon as they find that their dog has fleas. They are constantly worried saying “my dog has flees”. Here is some help on what to do upon detection of fleas in your furry pet. If your dog has fleas or if you think that he has, take him to a vet who will confirm it and tell you the right kind of treatments available. Remember that it is important to derive at specific tailor-made treatment for your dog and his environment. This is because, certain product combinations can be poisonous. Furthermore, your vet can suggests the best prevention plan for safeguarding your dog from fleas.

How To Treat Dog Fleas?

  • It is important to treat your dog and its environment for fleas.
  • Kill the adult fleas that already exist on your dog.
  • Kill the newly emerging fleas on your dog. It may take about four months to kill all the fleas that emerge out of the pupae.
  • Prevent the further infestation of your home by applying an IGR or Insect Growth Regulator. This will hinder the hatching of the eggs into larvae.
  • Your vet should be consulted to decide about choosing the right kind of flea treatment. The available flea treatment options are topical liquid, sprays, powders and sprays that can be applied to the dog coat and its environment. Some products kill fleas alone, while some others kill the fleas as well as their eggs. Besides, these vary in their efficiency.
  • Likewise, a product that is designed for another pet like cat should not be used for dog and vice versa. Further, use only prescription products instead of over- the- counter products, as the former ones are safer and far more effective than the latter.
  • Clean up your house thoroughly. Do not forget to clean the bedding, upholstery and rugs.

How Can Flea Infestation Be Prevented?

  • Give your dog a clean bath using a good shampoo.
  • Use a flea comb to pull out fleas from your dog’s coat.
  • Wash his living area and bedding once every week.
  • Clean and treat your yard too.
  • Clean the shady areas too because these are the favorite locations of fleas.
  • You can use an insecticide to kill flea eggs.
  • Frequently vacuum the living area of your home, especially the areas where carpets are spread. This will ensure that the eggs, pupae and larvae are completely cleaned.
  • Occasionally hang rugs, doormats and other items directly under sunlight.


How To Keep Fleas Off Your Pet Without Using Pesticides?

Some of the worst, most poisonous pet products available in the market are the flea prevention products such as shampoos, sprays and drops. Using them on your pets not only has a detrimental effect on your pets, but also on the other members of your family. Your pets on which the pesticides are used lay on your furniture, carpets, bed, etc. Your children sit on these areas after your pet has gone. So, instead of applying pesticides on your pets, use food grade diatomaceous earth. Apply this substance by slightly dusting your pet with it once in a week.


Diatomaceous earth is made out of fossilized marine algae. This alga is crushed and powdered to make a compound. This compound works in keep off the fleas by scratching off the exoskeleton of fleas. This dehydrates the fleas and subsequently kills them.


Diatomaceous earth is non-toxic. However, it causes respiratory irritation, as the powder is fine and can become air borne immediately. So, ensure that you do not breathe it in. Also, prevent it from entering your dog’s eyes and nose when you apply it. In case you are sensitive to airborne irritants, you should wear a dust mask while applying this substance.

Can Essential Oils Be Used To Prevent Flea Infestation?

Those who want to use only organic products instead of chemical substances to get rid of flea, often prefer essential oils. Applying essential oils in and around the house in order to repel flea may sound like a wise idea. Nevertheless, some pets like cats are sensitive to these oils. So, use these cautiously. Keenly observe your household pets for signs of confusion or lethargy that may result as a side effect of using essential oils. In case you observe any, stop further usage of these oils, and report to your vet immediately.