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What do dog fleas look like?

Black and brown dog scratching advice
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Looking for signs of fleas on your dog should become a regular hobby for you as a pet-owner. Knowing what dog fleas look like will be most helpful, but there are other signs of fleas of which you should be aware.

By G. John Cole

Fleas may just be little fellows but they can cause lots of problems for your dog. They can be a big irritation, which causes your dog to scratch a lot. And those scratches can lead to infections. Fleas can also bite humans, which may lead to disease.

Looking for signs of dog fleas

The fleas themselves are just one sign to look for. These six-legged insects are a reddish-brown colour. They are wingless, but can jump huge distances so you might spot them leaping about. But it’s also very easy to miss them since they tend to camouflage with your dog’s hair.

It can be easier to spot flea poo. This looks like pepper mixed in with your dog’s fur. Okay, so it could just be pepper, or some other kind of dirt – but there is a special trick to check whether it is flea poo.

Fleas eat your dog’s blood for food. So when they poo, their faeces is mostly made of blood. It’s dry, so it’s black or brown like most other dirt. But if you put it on a wet tissue, it will rehydrate and turn a rusty shade of blood-red.

What do dog flea eggs look like?

There is a third clue you might search for in the hunt for flea activity on your dog. Flea eggs are miniscule, oval, transparent grains that you can spot in your dog’s bed or wherever he likes to laze around. They look a bit like dandruff.

You also might spot them on your dog, but they’re so tiny this is unlikely. Combing your dog with a flea comb can help to reveal them.

You might also spot flea larvae. These very young fleas look like tiny maggots. They can actually survive on your dog for a long time before maturing so you will need to deal with these as well as the adult fleas, or else you’ll have another flea problem in a few months.

And you can also look out for flea bites on your dog. These are little red bumps that can appear at any time of day – whereas mosquito bites, which look similar, only tend to appear in the mosquito hours. You will most likely find flea bites towards the back of your dog, near his groin or in the area between her ribs and her tail.

How to search for fleas

It is one thing to casually look for fleas and signs of fleas on your dog. But if you want to do it properly, there are certain steps you should take.

The best thing is to get a flea comb and a bowl of soapy water. Comb your dog and check any dirt to see if it is flea faeces by putting it on a damp tissue. And if you end up with actual fleas on the comb, sink it straight into the soapy water to drown the little blighters before they leap for freedom.

A quicker check is to put a white towel under your dog and give him a quick rub. If lots of black specks fall off, it could be flea dirt. You already know how to deal with this. Add water and see if the specks turn red.

Fight back against fleas

As you’ve seen, fleas can be pretty sneaky. It may take a while to spot them. The best approach is to try to defend your dog against fleas before they appear.

You should hoover your dog’s favourite spots often, to suck up any flea eggs and larvae that might be waiting to hatch. Wash his bedding frequently in hot water to keep it free of the little pests. Anything that is not suitable for washing, like doormats, can be hung up in strong sunlight to rid them of a flea presence.

Dogs are adorable. It’s no wonder that fleas want to spend so much time with them. Unfortunately, it’s usually bad news for you and your dog when a family of fleas moves in – so learn the signs of fleas carefully, and you can act fast before the infestation takes hold.