How to Know if Your Dog Has Fleas

How To Know If Dog Has Fleas
Photo by Robert Larsson on Unsplash

You’ve noticed your dog is starting to scratch at themselves and it seems like they’re having a lot of visible discomfort. You may find yourself wondering if there’s anything you can do and what could possibly be the cause. You take a closer look and see little critters on their body. However, are they fleas?

Here’s what you need to know about your dog having fleas, what you can do, and the preventative measures to keep your dog healthy.

What Are Fleas?

Fleas are the most common parasite your dog can contract externally. They depend upon host animals for survival. Fleas are tiny bugs that jump from host to host. They have thin, flat bodies and hard shells. To properly kill fleas, they must be squished between two hard surfaces, with fingernails, or tweezers.

Fleas don’t discriminate and will often bother domestic dogs and cats. However, they also bother raccoons, deer, cattle, horses, opossums, foxes, coyotes, skunks, ferrets, bobcats, mountain lions, and so on. They will attach themselves to any mammal. Fleas feed off animals and will use their skin and fur to procreate. In dogs and cats, once an animal is infected, it can cause a flea infestation in the home. They will even bite humans!

How to Know if Your Dog Has Fleas

You’ll know if your dog has fleas if they’re constantly itching or scratching. You’ll be able to see fleas in their coat if you comb through them and find little black bugs in their fur. You may also find fleas on your bedding, furniture, or in your dog’s favourite lounging areas.

The saliva that fleas produce has protein in it, which a lot of dogs are allergic to. As soon as a flea bites your dog, it will immediately send them into a scratching frenzy. Flea bites can cause excessive scratching, discomfort, and stress. You may also notice red bumps along your dog’s skin. and your dog may also experience hair loss in the areas where they get flea bites.

To check if your dog has fleas, take a fine-tooth comb and begin to brush through their hair. You should be able to see their little black bodies and evidence of flea bites. Though they are small, they’re easy to spot. They often bounce and jump as well, which can make them hard to perceive. They also leave behind faeces, which can look like pepper or dark speckling, so there are lots of signs to check if your dog does have fleas.

It’s a very unpleasant experience for your dog, so if there are any signs, it’s worth checking your dog as soon as possible and at regular intervals to ensure that the fleas don’t come back once it’s resolved. As a dog owner, you should be checking your dog’s general health and wellbeing every so often, whether that’s looking through their skin for anything suspicious, checking bones, keeping an eye on their faeces and how often they drink and eat.

Symptoms of Fleas in Dogs

Luckily, the symptoms of fleas are easily perceptible and noticeable. Some symptoms of fleas in dogs include:

  • Exccesive itching or scratching. You’ll notice your dog excessively itching and scratching at their skin if they have fleas, which is the most obvious and telltale sign.
  • Red, swollen pimple like bumps. Your dog will have raised, red, and swollen pimple like bumps. These are flea bites. If they’ve been scratching, you’ll especially notice them.
  • Hives or rashes. Excessive scratching can cause the bites to turn into hives or rashes.
  • Possible bacterial infections. Excessive scratching can also heighten the risk of your dog contracting a bacterial infection, this will make the bites look like blisters.

In order to know whether your dog has fleas, you’ll need to check their skin and brush through their hair to spot any signs of bumps, hives, rashes or infections. If you spot something unusual or are worried about your dog’s health and whether they have fleas, it’s worth checking in with a veterinarian and they will be able to conduct a full assessment and provide you with a definitive answer.

If your dog sleeps in the same bed as you, this is something to be very cautious about, as the fleas will spread to your bedding and other areas. Fleas can bite humans, but they can’t live on us as we humans don’t produce enough hair for them to thrive off – but something to consider if you are worried that your dog has fleas, it may be worth making them sleep in another bed until the issue is addressed.

Remedies for Fleas in Dogs

Luckily, fleas can be easily treated at home! Here are some of the best ways to get rid of fleas on your dog:

Bathe your dog with medicated shampoo

Medicated shampoo can be bought at any local pet store or online. Medicated shampoos work to specifically kill fleas by drowning them in compounds that are toxic to them. While a bath with regular pet shampoo can be effective, medicated shampoo is your best bet to eliminate fleas on your dog. Be sure to thoroughly lather every inch of your dog and let the medicated shampoo marinate for several minutes. Rinse with warm water to remove any dead flea that was affected during the shampoo process.

Be mindful that these types of shampoos are incredibly stripping and can strip your dog’s coat of natural oils. Follow with a conditioner to reduce the risk of over stripping your dog’s coat in the medium to long term. Dog shampoo can last a while, so it’s worth investing a good amount of money into a top-quality shampoo product for your dog.

As a rule of thumb, you should aim to shampoo your dog at least once a month and no longer than once every three months, to ensure a healthy coat and to eliminate any risk of fleas on your precious doggo! Your dog will thank you for it!

Use apple cider vinegar to repel flea bites

While apple cider vinegar does not kill fleas, it can repel them from biting your dog. Fleas don’t like the taste of anything sour or bitter. On the other hand, apple cider vinegar has natural antibacterial properties, which can help soothe flea bites and prevent your dog from contracting a bacterial infection due to excessive itching or scratching.

This is a temporary preventative measure to help soothe your dog’s skin and to reduce the likelihood of fleas biting and irritating your dog’s skin in the short term, it certainly isn’t a cure or a method to get rid of any fleas on a permanent basis and you should always consult with an expert.

Use a specified flea collar

Specified flea collars work by slowly releasing chemical compounds that are toxic to fleas and will kill any that are near the collar. You can buy specified flea collars at your local pet store or online.

You shouldn’t rely on a flea collar to solve your dog’s flea issues, however, it’s a good product to use in conjunction with other methods to help eliminate fleas from your dog, and to reduce their symptoms in the short term. It’s best for dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors in high grass, debris and sand, where fleas tend to live and hide.

Invest in topical flea medication

Topical flea medication works similar to flea collars by slowly releasing chemicals throughout your dog’s coat that will poison and kill fleas. Topical flea medication can also be purchased at your local pet store or online, however, it’s worth checking with your vet before giving this to your pet, to ensure they have no side effects and it’s a suitable path to explore with your breed of dog. Every dog is different and some may react to the medication differently, so it’s best to check first.

Visit your vet for prescription pills to get rid of fleas

If the fleas still persist with the aforementioned remedies, a visit to the vet can clear up fleas in no time. They might prescribe prescription pills. Oral medication works by making the taste of your dog’s flesh rancid to fleas, which makes them seek out another host.

This is a fairly successful method to get rid of fleas on your dog because who would want to eat something that they didn’t like the taste of? If all other methods fail to get rid of fleas in your dog and to give them some relief, it’s worth checking with your vet to see if this could be a viable method to explore for your dog.

Regularly wash bedding

Usually when your dog has fleas, so will the house and this means everything else that your dog comes into contact with, such as bedding, duvet, pillows and more. Be sure to regularly wash any bedding that your dog luxuriates in. Also, be sure to regularly wash your own bedding, especially if they sleep with you.

It’s worth considering vacuuming your floor, carpets, pillows and sofa, as the hoover will suck up fleas where they might be hiding, as a plus, you’ll also get rid of any dust and other unwanted particles in the process!

Fleas are small, hideous little creatures and when a female has found a suitable host, she will reproduce very quickly, so if you’ve found out that your dog has fleas, or you have suspicions, it’s worth taking action immediately and start cleaning the surrounding areas in your home.

Can dog fleas live on humans?

The good news, fleas cannot live on humans for long periods of time, however, they can bite us. Fleas are attracted to animals that have lots of hair or fur, so they can burrow beneath and lay eggs, as humans don’t have much hair, this process can be difficult for the fleas to lay eggs. It’s also very likely that humans will find the flea and remove it before they have a chance to reproduce.

Will fleas on my dog go away on their own?

Absolutely not, fleas become very attached once they find a suitable host, as it’s very convenient for them and they won’t go through the trouble to find a new one if they are happy. Fleas are only able to go from one animal to another by jumping, and this can be a difficult exercise and comes with a lot of risk for the flea. Usually, once a flea finds a suitable animal, they will continue to lay eggs and stay there for the remainder of their lives. This is why it’s crucial to eliminate fleas and to check your dog regularly.

Can I get fleas from my dog?

Yes, you can get fleas from your dog, as fleas can jump from one animal (or human) to another, however, fleas aren’t so great as living on humans, so if they did jump onto you, they would bite you, but likely jump to an alternative host when they get a chance. A human isn’t a great long-term host for a flea, as we don’t have the hair required for them to burrow into and lay eggs.

Can fleas live on human clothes?

Yes, fleas can live on human clothes, however, as fleas need an active blood source to stay alive, unless they move from your clothes to your skin, they won’t survive for very long (24 hours). But it is possible, and fleas may jump from your clothes to another suitable host if it gets a chance, so it’s important to wash your clothes regularly if you suspect fleas on your dog.

What do fleas hate the most?

Fleas have a very strong sense of smell and they use this to their advantage to find nearby food sources for themselves. So, if you wanted to take advantage of this, you could wear strong perfume or aftershave, using scents like vinegar or clove oil – as this will be too strong for their senses and they could look for another host.

How To Prevent Fleas in Dogs

Flea prevention in dogs is one of the most important steps in getting rid of the little irritating little buggers for good.

Regularly using topical flea medication on your dog and bathing them can prevent infestation.

Fleas are usually contracted outside, so be sure to perform routine checks on your dog regularly to catch fleas before an infestation occurs. Limit the amount of time your dog spends outdoors to avoid fleas. Fleas prefer warmer weather, so they’re more common in the spring and summer.

Diligence is one of the best ways to prevent fleas. Though they are annoying, they’re usually harmless.

And there we have it, everything you need to know about fleas in dogs, so you can look after your little furry friend! Remember that fleas don’t discriminate and can appear on any type of dog breed, so it’s worth taking the necessary steps to prevent your dog from getting fleas in the future. Your dog will thank you for it. Best of luck!

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