Spotting and Treating Fleas on Dogs

Fleas can be very frustrating. These tiny bugs are less than a centimeter long and cause a lot of discomfort for dogs and cats. Due to how small they are, and how thick a dog’s fur is, it can be very hard to spot them immediately.

Unlike other bugs, you won’t see fleas flying rapidly, unless the infestation is large enough that it is completely visible to the naked eye. Instead you may notice that your dog is scratching frequently, has red bite marks or is missing chunks of fur on their body. Thankfully, there are many ways that you can spot and treat fleas at home. Read on to learn more.

spotting and treating fleas on dogs

What are Fleas?

Before you can treat fleas on your dog, it’s important to understand exactly what a flea is. Fleas are tiny little bugs that act as parasites and live their life cycles by sucking your dog’s blood. They are super small, which makes them hard to see and they have a short lifespan. The problem with these is that they can lay multiple eggs, and it only takes about a month for their life cycle to continue. In other words, in about two to three months, your dog can be infected with over 100 fleas on their body without you seeing them.

How to Find Fleas on Your Dog

It’s not always possible to spot fleas directly on your dog. You will have to look at a few different places. Most of the time fleas like to attack areas like your dog’s ears, near their back, at the base of their tail and close to their stomachs. Not all dogs have long fur, but even dogs with short and thick fur hide hundreds of fleas. Shine a flashlight into your dog’s fur and see if any of them will jump out. You may also find black specks called “flea dirt” which is actually digested blood. To know for sure if it’s flea dirt, if you place some on a white paper towel and add water, the “flea dirt” specks will turn a rust color.

4 Different Flea Treatment Methods

Now that you know how to spot fleas on your dog, you can find different methods to kill fleas and completely get rid of them.

There are multiple methods by which you can kill fleas that are listed below:

1. 1-Month or 3-Month Active Prevention

The most common method is a 6-month active prevention flea medication. It will kill fleas that are affecting your dog at the moment after they bite, as well as prevent them for 30 or 90 days. These chews and topical medications are ingested easily and put something into your dog’s blood that kills and repels fleas. Topical flea and tick preventatives absorb through the skin to activate.

2. Deep Clean Home and Fabrics

If the infestation is really bad, you will need to deep clean your home and fabrics. All of your fabric, including mattresses and dog beds, should be placed in the washing machine on high heat.

The high heat kills all fleas and eggs. Fleas are trouble, but eggs are even worse if they can stay dormant for months without hatching. To deep clean your home, you will need disinfectant sprays and various other tools to get rid of the current fleas as well as prevent them from coming back. Vacuum every day, especially if you have carpet, for at least 30 days. If you have rugs, deep clean them at least twice a week if you are trying to get rid of a flea infestation.

3. Wash Dog with Flea Shampoo

When the methods above are not working properly, you may need to use them together while also buying a dog washing shampoo. There are anti-flea shampoos that are safe for dogs, but they are medicated. Most of these medications should only be used once a week and can hurt your dog if they have open wounds from scratching at the flea bites. For young puppies and kittens, a bath with Dawn dish soap is what we recommend for it is safer and gentler on them at that young age, however, this is to only be used during an infestation not as a regular shampoo for extended periods of time because it can dry out the skin.

First, you will lather your dog in the shower. Leave the flea shampoo on for at least five minutes before thoroughly rinsing it out. Then, place a towel over your dog’s body as they are drying and keep it on for at least 5 more minutes. If your dog does not stand still for this long, you may need to give them a dog treat to relax them.

4. Flea Combs and Hand Killing

Flea combs are just as useful because you can pass them through your dog’s fur and capture fleas and eggs. However, you need to be as quick as possible when grabbing these fleas because they jump, and you can lose them in your home, which can spread the fleas.

You cannot get rid of a flea infestation if there are fleas still crawling all over your home. You can hand kill fleas, but you have to be as fast as possible. We recommend using dish soap in warm water as fleas cannot swim out of the solution.

Contact Warrick Veterinary Clinic if You Have Any Additional Questions about Spotting and Treating Fleas on Dogs

All in all, fleas can be very frustrating bugs that are hard to capture and kill. However, there are ways that you can get rid of them to provide your dog with comfort. By knowing the treatment methods, you can properly remove the fleas off of your dog and avoid them spreading. 

If you have any additional questions or concerns about spotting and treating fleas on dogs, contact Warrick Veterinary Clinic by calling (812) 897-4855. Our team is committed to providing the highest quality medical care for your pets.