How do You Know if Your Pet has Fleas?


Gross Flea Dirt

Pet’s that are itching this time of year often have fleas to blame for their problems. Flea bite allergy is the most common allergy we see in pets and the bite of just one flea can make them break out for 2 weeks. Even pets that are not allergic will scratch from the irritation of the bugs crawling around on them. How can you tell if fleas are the problem?

The obvious answer is that if you see fleas on your pet then they are most likely causing the itching. While that is true, I cannot tell you how many pet owners have sworn to me that their pet is flea-free only for me to prove otherwise.

The best flea detector is a flea comb. A flea comb has very close teeth that can actually pick fleas out of the fur. A few swipes will often net a couple little blood-suckers.

I have found that it is often difficult to find fleas on dogs who are really itchy. These dogs are no doubt allergic to fleas and do a good job of scratching them off. Other dogs in the same household may have dozens of fleas on them. If there are fleas on one pet in a household then there are fleas on them all!

Many times when I do not find fleas on the pet, I will find flea feces when I use the flea comb. Flea dirt looks like little black specks that are often comma-shaped.

Fleas feed off your pet’s blood and they do not digest it well. Their poop is basically dried blood. If when you flea comb your pet you get black specks off but you’re not sure if it is flea dirt, sprinkle a few drops of water on it. If is dissolves into a red haze, it’s flea poop. If there is flea poop, there are fleas!

Fleas are at their highest populations in the fall of the year in temperate climates. If your pet is itching, then fleas may be the problem. I’ll have more on solving the flea problem naturally next time.

 Have you ever found fleas on your pet?

2 replies
    • Dr. Doug
      Dr. Doug says:

      Topical, chemical flea treatments like Frontline do not repel fleas. However, the fleas will die after they bite. If your pet has an allergy to fleas just one bite can cause itching for 2 weeks, so fleas could be the problem. This is also the time of year for the start of fall allergies so that is a possibility too.


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