“Conor, how do I know if my dog has fleas?”: one of the most common questions asked on our Dogs First Facebook Page. Let me guide you through 5 different checks you can perform at home to check for fleas on your dog.
How to Check Your Dog for Fleas
So you think your dog may have fleas but are unsure what fleas are or how to check if your dog has them? This article will give you our top 5 tips for how to spot those little critters on your dog.
1. Visual Check
Depending on the type of fur your dog has, you may easily spot these little critters, or you may not. Equally, some types of fleas are slightly easier to spot than others. Rabbit fleas, for example, are much easier to notice.
Part your dog’s fur and look where the skin is exposed. You may notice the actual flea; they are flat-bodied and brown. But also look for flea dirt – the waste fleas leave behind and what newly emerging fleas can feed on. Flea dirt looks like you’ve sprinkled your dog with black pepper.
When checking the environment for fleas, you can pop a piece of white gauze in your vacuum nozzle while deep cleaning.
We’ve also heard of people jumping up and down on carpets in white socks. We’re not entirely sure of the soundness of this test, but if you try it, let us know how it goes… even send in a video… so we can have a good laugh!
2. The White Tissue Test
You can look for fleas using a flea comb and white tissue. First, grab a flea comb and groom your dog with the comb. After combing a section of hair, wipe the comb with white tissue and look for fleas or flea dirt. Add a sprinkle of water to the tissue, and if the bits off your dog turn reddish/brown, they likely have fleas.
3. Comb Your Dog for Fleas
Introducing grooming to your dog as soon as possible is essential – whether to your newly brought home puppy or rescue pooch. Not only will you need to groom your dog over their lifetime, but it also prepares them for being combed for fleas.
4. Introduce Your Dog Slowly to the Grooming Equipment
Allow your dog to sniff the item/product first. You can offer your dog a long-lasting dried chew or a raw meaty bone if this helps them settle quietly (be mindful if your dog gets stressed having others around them whilst eating, though – this may not be the most appropriate way to settle them).
once your dog is settled, slowly comb their coat so they can get used to the sensation and sound of the comb. If your dog tolerates the comb, you can be more selective with the areas you are combing.
Part the hair and comb through small sections, wiping the comb on a white tissue after each section.
5. A Heat Lamp with a Water Bath
You can also make flea traps. Consisting of a container of water beneath a heat lamp or standard lamp, the heat and light attract the fleas, causing them to jump, but they land in the water and drown instead. You can add dish soap to the water, which increases the chance the flea will drown. Yes, we realise how sadistic this whole paragraph sounds.
A Few Common Questions Asked by You
1. Where Do I Look for Fleas on My Dog?
Fleas are quite predictable. They are commonly found in the groin area and the dog’s armpits. The base of the tail is a firm favourite too. Comb your dog’s entire body for fleas.
2. What Treatments Can I Use to Rid My Dog of Fleas?
Here at Dogs First, we don’t advocate those harsh spot-on chemical treatments for treating your dog when they have fleas. See our article on Natural Flea Treatments for Fleas for our top tips.
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3. How Long Do Dogs Scratch After Flea Treatment?
Dogs may scratch when they have fleas to get rid of the irritation caused by the presence of the flea or from the saliva of a flea bite.
By this logic, you may think that dogs would stop scratching when the fleas have been eradicated.
However, some dogs can be particularly sensitive to flea saliva, and whilst the immune system is dealing with the flea bite, the dog may still scratch.
In addition, conventional chemical flea treatments, as noted in the manufacturer’s data sheets, can cause skin irritation, redness and lesions.
So we may think that eradicating the fleas will stop our dog from scratching, but they could very well react to a flea treatment which causes a new irritation. Our dogs may continue to scratch until we have managed this new irritation.
4. Are Fleas Different from Cats to Dogs?
There are both cat and dog fleas. But they aren’t fussy – both will feed off either a cat or a dog host. What’s particularly interesting is that cat fleas are more common than dog fleas.
A 2005 study surveyed thirty-one clinics in the UK, and out of 2653 dogs and 1508 cats, 21.1% of the cats and 6.8% of the dogs were infested. C. felis (cat flea) was the most common flea, being responsible for 98.9% of cat infestations and 93.2% of dog infestations. In this study, of the 138 fleas collected in the UK in the autumn and winter, 96% were C. felis.
5. Are There Different Types of Fleas?
In Europe, the most common flea species found on dogs, cats and other small companion animals are Ctenocephalides felis, followed by Ctenocephalides canis. Felis means cat and canis means dog.
You will also find Archaeopsylla erinacei (hedgehog flea), and occasionally other flea species such as Ceratophyllus gallinae, Echidnophaga gallinacea (poultry fleas), Spilopsyllus cuniculi (rabbit flea) and Pulex irritans (human flea).
Stoolrite can help ease anal gland issues in dogs
6. What is the Difference Between Ticks and Fleas on Dogs?
Fleas are generally smaller insects. Most of the details of their appearance can only be seen under a microscope. Adult fleas are visible to the naked eye but often appear as brown specks in hair, fur, and clothing.
Fleas are amazing jumpers. They can soar up to 7 inches high and 13 inches wide!
Because of their small size, most flea infestations won’t be detectable until they reach critical mass.
Ticks, on the other hand, are larger. They can be red, brown, yellowish, grey, or black. Ticks, like spiders, have eight legs that are often concealed by their round bodies, especially when they’re well-fed.
After feeding on a host, a tick’s body increases greatly, up to 100 times its original size.
Ticks find their host by crawling, climbing, balancing, and dangling from loose objects waiting for someone to brush past them so they can latch on and feed.
Ticks latch on to their prey when at their most vulnerable: when resting, sleeping, or otherwise immobilised. Check your dog regularly for ticks, remove them, and treat them naturally should Lyme disease be on the radar.
How much are you scratching right now?