What Do Fleas Look Like on Dogs?

Dog Health Recent August 25, 2022

What Do Fleas Look Like on Dogs?

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There are thousands of species of fleas, like dog fleas, cat fleas, rabbit fleas and human fleas and more than one kind can take up residence on your pup. That being said, dog and cat fleas are the most common type that your dog will be in contact with. The wide variety of fleas gives your dog plenty of opportunities to pick them up as he goes about her day.

What Are Fleas?

Fleas are tiny parasites that feed off of the blood of their hosts. There are over 2,200 species of fleas in the world, but a lot of the time the flea you find on your dog is the cat flea. The cat flea, scientifically known as Ctenocephalides felis.

Strangely enough the species of “cat fleas,” infest more than 50 different mammals and birds throughout the world. In the United States, cat fleas are found on dogs, cats, wolves, foxes, raccoons, opossums, ferrets, and domestic rabbits.

What Do Fleas Look Like?

You first want to know what fleas look like to make identifying them quick and easy.

The fleas you will find on your dog are small, flat bodied parasites that typically measure between 1-2.5 millimeters long, if they are in adult stages. They will most likely be a brown or reddish-brown color but depending on the color of your dog, they maybe hard to see.

You may have an easier time finding flea eggs because they are white, about half a millimeter long and oval in shape. A female flea can lay as many as 40 eggs per day.

Sometimes you may see flea droppings, or “flea dirt”, that fleas leave behind when feeding. And yes this is a nice way of saying flea poop.

What Do Flea Bites Look Like?

You may not see fleas but your dog’s skin may show signs of scratching or redness from bites. The most obvious sign that your dog has bites from fleas is consistent scratching, and continuous over-grooming, which may result in bald areas on your dogs coat.

If your dog develops a flea allergy he may also have scabs and red sores on their skin. These signs may mean a flea infestation, although there are many other causes of skin issues in dogs so you may want to see your vet

You may notice the skin on the stomach, groin, or base of the tail frequently affected by flea bites, which may look like a red and bumpy rash on dogs. However, the most common areas where flea bites occur are on the hind legs, groin and the back between the ribs and the tail.

Regular grooming will not prevent your dog from getting fleas, but it will help you identify any symptoms sooner than later, so that you can get treatment as soon as possible.

Signs That Your Dog Has Fleas

It is very likely that your dog has fleas if you notice any of the following:

  • Your dog is scratching
  • There are patches and areas of baldness
  • You see spots or scars on the dogs skin
  • Your pups skin looks red and irritated
  • There are signs of thick skin in areas
  • You find specks of black debris in the dogs fur near the skin

Dog Flea Treatments

You will want to treat your home when treating your dog, since fleas can survive without a host for several months. This means thoroughly vacuuming floors, and furniture as well as changing your bedding weekly. When you are done, always throw away or empty your vacuums bag or bin after every use to prevent any flea eggs or larvae from growing inside.

If you have pets, these methods are good to practice on a regulars basis. Here are some ways to treat your dog directly:

  • Powders
    Powders maybe the old fashioned and least neat way of treating fleas on your dog. This is because the powder needs to remain on your dog’s coat to work and some powders can make your pup sick if ingested.
  • Sprays
    Sprays are also old fashioned and can be messy. These are becoming less popular due to new ways to apply treatments.
  • Collars
    Flea collars are not always affective and tend to only treat fleas closest to the collar near the neck. They have also been known to cause hair loss or irritation to your dogs skin.Today there are new and improved flea collars that are much more gentle to your dog’s skin and fur available through your veterinarian. These work by dispersing the active ingredient throughout the body rather than just around your dog’s neck. With any dog collar, it should have a quick-release buckle to ensure your dog does not get stuck or tangled up anywhere.
  • Spot-on Treatment
    These kinds of products are the easiest and most effective way of treating and preventing fleas on your pup. They come in the form of a small vial of liquid which is then applied to the back of your dog’s neck. This treatment not only kills fleas but also the development of eggs. There are many brands available over the counter and stronger ones can be prescribed by your vet.
  • Tablets and Liquids
    Tablets or liquid treatments are absorbed into the dog’s body, killing fleas when they go in for a bite, or sterilize fleas so that they can not reproduce.
  • Injections
    Injections are available in some cases to prevent the development of flea eggs but, a topical treatment may need to be applied at the same time.

    Treating Your Home  and Yard

    Your dog can keep picking up fleas over and over again if you do not treat your yard. There are many yard and garden sprays that can kill fleas and protect your yard, garden, and bushes for up to four weeks. It is best to also dispose of loose brush or overgrown vegetation in the yard and have the home and yard treated by a professional pest control company.

    As mentioned above you need to treat your home as well, since fleas can live in the carpet and other parts of your house.  This means vacuum all flooring and especially furniture and wash all bedding and be sure to wash your dog’s bedding and any furniture your dog sleeps on. Even if you are not specifically treating a flea infestation, you should always vacuum and clean your home,  and be thorough, because fleas can get deep into fabrics and live for months.

    You also have additional options like indoor foggers, carpet spray or carpet powder, for inside your home. You may want to have professionals come treat your home and clean your carpets with flea treatments as well.

    Final Thoughts

    In additional to making your dog feel pretty miserable, fleas can also present a health hazard. If your dog scratches enough and irritates the skin it could lead to an infection. It is best to consult your veterinarian to find out about flea treatments as mentioned above or even natural solutions.

    Dogs can get fleas any time of the year, so its best to be on the defense no matter what the season. There are websites that allow you to sign up for alerts to be notified when there is a flea outbreak in your area as well.

Woman scratching dog under chin

Amy Brown - Towry is a Certified NAVC Pet Nutritionist and pet lover. She is the proud owner of two rescue cats and a rescue dog and her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care, nutrition, and product reviews.
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