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What are the symptoms of flea bites on dogs?

Dog wearing a medical cone advice
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There are few pet problems more troubling than flea bites on dogs. Flea bites indicate the presence of parasites on your pet and in your home. And a flea infestation only gets worse if you don’t discover it early and do something about it

By G. John Cole

Left untreated, flea bites can lead to further complications for your beloved pooch. That may include flea allergy dermatitis, anaemia, or tapeworms. A flea problem begins as an irritation but becomes costly, painful, and upsetting if you don’t notice it in time. So just what do flea bites look like on dogs?

The colour of flea bites on dogs

Flea bites appear on your dog’s skin as small red bumps. They may become inflamed if your dog scratches them before you become aware of the problem. And the area around the bumps could be red if your dog has a bad reaction to the flea bites. It’s not always straightforward to find flea bites on dogs. This is why it’s important to look out for other symptoms of fleas, too.

Other symptoms of flea bites on dogs

If your dog has fleas, you might notice him scratching himself more than usual. This might involve him chewing his own skin to catch that itch. All this scratching and biting leads to hair loss and irritated skin, even on top of the appearance of flea bites. If you notice these symptoms, you should look closer to see if there are flea bites under the fur.

What do dog fleas look like

While looking for flea bites on your dog, you should watch out for the fleas themselves. Actually, the more common type of flea found on dogs is not the dog flea, but the cat flea.

You might have guessed that cats would be involved somewhere along the line! This type of flea is brown or black, and just half the size of a grain of rice. They will likely be moving around on the neck or ears or the base of your dog’s tail.

Fleas leave droppings that you can use to identify them. They look like specks of pepper, but actually they’re made of blood. You can test them by putting a piece of damp toilet tissue on them. If they turn to red, you know it was dried blood. Congratulations: you are now a forensic dog detective!

Like all the best detectives, you’ll need to comb the area. In this case, this means literally combing your dog’s fur with a fine-toothed comb to pick up the clues. Your dog’s fleas lay up to 50 eggs a day. You need to act fast before those fleas lay another egg!

Responding to flea bites on dogs

Fleas suck your dog’s blood. That’s how they eat. It’s why, when you find flea turds, they’re made of blood. If you find symptoms of fleas on your dog, you should take action to prevent further damage.

Unfortunately, this means contacting your vet. Flea bites are a serious business, and you need expert help. Your vet will see how serious the infestation is. They will help you if it has progressed to flea allergy dermatitis. Your vet will provide expert advice and medication to stop the symptoms making your dog’s life a misery.

And of course, your vet will advise you on how to get rid of fleas from your dog and house. It takes a while because they breed so quickly. This is why it is important to be vigilant and take preventive steps. For example, you should ban your dog from getting up on furniture or into bed with you. And there are all sorts of collars and lotions you can put on your dog to discourage fleas from making a settlement on him.

Alternatives to flea bites on dogs

If your dog has spots and itching, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she has fleas. Use the above symptoms of dog fleas to check, and if you’re not sure then consider the alternatives.

Fleas are the most common form of irritation like this, especially in warmer climates. But dogs love to investigate and to hang out in the strangest places. If they have bites on their belly, for example, it is likely they've been laying on ants or wasps. A bee sting will likely occur in hairless areas. Remember, those fleas like fur. Bee or wasp stings will feel warm to the touch.

Of course, your dog might just be scratching because it feels good. There’s not much in life like having a good old scratch. But if they keep on doing it, and you spot those raised red bumps, it’s likely he or she has fleas and it’s time for you to act.