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How To Tell If Your Dog Has Fleas

There aren’t too many things worse than having a flea infestation. They can be hard to catch at first, but can quickly get out of control. But if your dog is itching it could be from poor nutrition, allergies, or the dreaded flea. So, how to do you tell if your dog has fleas?

A dog outside in grass chewing on a natural chew.

Signs That Your Dog Has Fleas

Identifying whether your dog has fleas is crucial for their well-being and to prevent a potential infestation in your home. Fleas are small, wingless parasites that feed on the blood of mammals, including dogs. Here are some common signs that may indicate your dog has fleas:

Excessive Scratching:

Flea bites can cause intense itching, leading to excessive scratching, biting, or licking. If you notice your dog constantly scratching certain areas of its body, particularly around the tail base, neck, ears, or groin, it could be a sign of fleas.

Visible Fleas or Flea Dirt:

Fleas are agile and can quickly move through your dog’s fur. Look closely for any tiny, fast-moving brown insects on your dog’s skin or in their fur. Additionally, flea dirt (feces) may be visible. This will look like black specks or small flakes that turn red when wet. You can check for flea dirt by combing your dog’s fur and inspecting the comb.

Redness and Irritation:

Flea bites can cause skin irritation and inflammation. If you observe redness, small raised bumps, or open sores on your dog’s skin, it could indicate a flea infestation. Excessive scratching or biting at the affected areas may exacerbate the irritation and lead to secondary skin infections. However, these symptoms can look like allergies.

Hair Loss or Patchy Coat:

Persistent scratching and biting due to flea bites can result in hair loss or a patchy coat. If you notice thinning hair, bald spots, or any changes in your dog’s coat appearance, fleas could be the underlying cause.

Allergic Reactions:

Some dogs are hypersensitive to flea saliva, resulting in an allergic reaction called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Dogs with FAD may experience severe itching, redness, hair loss, and skin infections. If your dog exhibits these symptoms, it is essential to address the flea problem promptly.

Restlessness and Behavioral Changes:

Fleas can make your dog uncomfortable and restless. They may exhibit increased restlessness, irritability, or difficulty sleeping. Behavioral changes such as excessive licking and biting at their fur can also be signs of flea infestation.

Pale Gums:

In severe cases of flea infestation, dogs may experience anemia due to blood loss. Pale gums or lethargy may indicate anemia and should be promptly addressed by a veterinarian.

If you suspect your dog has fleas, it is crucial to take action promptly to prevent further infestation. Consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment options. Your veterinarian can recommend suitable flea control products, such as topical treatments or oral medications, and provide guidance on environmental flea control to eliminate fleas from your home.

Regular preventative measures, such as using flea preventatives year-round and maintaining good hygiene and cleanliness, are essential to protect your dog from fleas and keep them healthy and comfortable.

Dog eating chew

Skin Allergies or Fleas?

Skin allergies in dogs and fleas are distinct but can sometimes be interconnected. Understanding the differences between these conditions is important for proper diagnosis and treatment. Here’s a breakdown of the differences.

Skin Allergies: Skin allergies in dogs, also known as canine allergic dermatitis, are typically caused by environmental allergens like pollen, mold, dust mites, or certain foods. These allergies trigger an immune response, leading to skin irritation and inflammation.

Fleas: Fleas are external parasites that infest dogs and cause discomfort and a mild allergic reaction. Even a single flea bite can trigger intense itching and allergic symptoms in sensitive dogs.

Skin Allergies: Dogs with environmental or food allergies may exhibit various symptoms, including itching, redness, hot spots, hair loss, skin infections, and ear infections. Allergic reactions can affect different body parts, such as the paws, ears, belly, or face.

Fleas: Flea infestation can cause severe itching and discomfort. Dogs with flea allergies may exhibit excessive scratching, biting, or chewing, primarily around the tail base, hindquarters, and back. The skin may appear irritated, or inflamed. Fleas like to hide so you will catch them in the joints and folds your pup has.


Skin Allergies: Environmental allergies in dogs are triggered by exposure to specific allergens like pollen, grass, trees, or dust mites. Food allergies can be caused by certain ingredients, such as beef, chicken, grains, or dairy.

Fleas: Flea allergies are specifically triggered by flea bites and contact with flea saliva.

Treatment of Fleas Vs Allergies

Skin Allergies: Treating environmental or food allergies involves identifying and minimizing exposure to allergens. This can include allergen-specific immunotherapy (allergy shots), hypoallergenic diets, medications to relieve itching and inflammation, and topical treatments for secondary skin infections.

Fleas: Treating flea infestations and flea allergies involves a multifaceted approach. This includes eliminating fleas from the dog and the environment. Treating any existing skin irritation and providing relief from itching may also be necessary. You will also need to treat the living area the dog is in for up to a month after you believe the fleas are gone. Otherwise, you may face re-infestation.

It is important to note that while skin allergies and fleas have differences, they can coexist or exacerbate each other. Flea infestations can worsen allergic reactions in dogs with pre-existing skin allergies, and the constant itching from allergies can make dogs more susceptible to fleas.

If your dog exhibits signs of skin allergies or fleas, it is best to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. They can help determine the underlying cause, recommend suitable treatments, and provide guidance on prevention and long-term management to keep your dog’s skin healthy and comfortable.

How To Get Rid Of Fleas

Dealing with a flea infestation on your dog can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can effectively get rid of fleas and keep your furry friend comfortable. Here are a few methods to help eliminate dog fleas.

Use Flea Control Products:

Topical Treatments: Apply vet-recommended topical flea treatments directly to your dog’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades. These treatments kill fleas and prevent their reproduction.

Oral Medications: Administer oral flea medications prescribed by your veterinarian. These medications work systemically to kill fleas when they bite your dog, disrupting their life cycle.

Flea Collars: Use flea collars that emit chemicals to repel and kill fleas. Follow the instructions carefully and ensure the collar fits properly without causing discomfort to your dog.

Regularly Wash Bedding and Vacuum: Wash your dog’s bedding and blankets frequently. Use hot water and a detergent that kills fleas to eliminate any eggs, larvae, or adult fleas. Regularly vacuum your home, focusing on areas where your dog spends time. Pay close attention to carpets, upholstery, and crevices where fleas may hide. Dispose of the vacuum bag or empty the canister immediately to prevent fleas from reinfesting your home.

Environmental Treatments: This normally consists of flea sprays or powders. Apply them to carpets, furniture, and other areas where fleas might be present. Follow the instructions carefully, as some products may require treating your home multiple times.

In severe infestations, consider using foggers or flea bombs, which release insecticides to treat larger areas. Follow the instructions precisely and evacuate your home as recommended to ensure the safety of both you and your dog.


If you aren’t sure if your dog is suffering from fleas or not, you should talk to your vet. They will be able to identify if the itching is from allergies, fleas, or both. Fleas are easy to keep under control with proper preventive measures.

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