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Fleas on Dogs

Fleas are tiny little critters that live in the home environment. They’re dark brown, measure about 1 – 2mm, leap great distances and suck blood directly from their host as adults. You may notice the textbook signs of infestation your dog displays through itching or biting the infected area.

There are many different species of flea, for cats, rabbits and even humans, but dog fleas (Ctenocephalides canis)are the most common. It is thought that up to 95% of fleas live in the environment, meaning re-infection is likely to occur if the home is not treated in addition to treating your pet.


How Do Dogs Get Fleas?

Female fleas lay up to 40 eggs a day. These eggs are small, white, and oval-shaped. They hatch into tiny larvae and burrow into things like carpet, furniture or dog bedding. In this early stage of their lifecycle, they feed on things like dog hair, and skin cells. After a few months, the flea larvae emerges from its dwelling as an adult. It waits for a warm-blooded passer-by and uses its hind-legs to leap onto its host. It’s important to note that dogs can also become infected with fleas from other dogs. Which means that, as a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure that if you suspect your dog to be infested with fleas, you minimise the possibility of spreading the infestation to others.

What Do Fleas on Dogs Look Like?

Fleas are small, quick and tend to hide in your dog’s fur, but they’re not impossible to see to the naked eye. They arebrown, or sometimes reddish brown and have six legs, which they use to jump great distances, sometimes up to 100 times their own body length. Dog owners can alternatively inspect their dog for flea bites, which appear as small red lesions on their hide. You can easily differentiate the bite mark of a flea from that of a tick. This is because fleas do not usually latch on to their host for any period of time, unlike ticks, which usually remain attached to the host for a number of days. Fleas and flea eggs can also be found in your dog’s bedding, or other areas of the house they tend to lounge around. These eggs are clear, oval shaped and about the size of a grain of sand.

Symptoms of Fleas on Dogs

You may recognise the tell-tale signs of fleas characteristic in dogs, these are:

  • Persistent scratching
  • Over grooming
  • Areas of hair-loss
  • Spots or scabs
  • Tiny dark specs on fur
  • Redness or irritation
  • Unaccounted for bites on humans (especially around the ankle)

Dogs may also develop allergic reactions to flea bites as some pets are hypersensitive to flea salvia. One pro-tip used by many responsible dog owners to check for fleas is to groom your dog with a fine tooth comb over a white surface. This will allow you to see all the deposited fleas and droppings on the surface. You can also add a few drops of water and watch the flea turn a reddish brown (as a result of the blood sucked from the host).

Do Fleas on Dogs Bite Humans?

Yes, dog fleas can, and do, bite humans. A human will likely develop a rash with a small bump, usually around the ankle, feet or lower legs, as these are the most accessible areas for them. Bites, however, are just as likely anywhere else on the body where the flea can reach. Flea bites can sometimes appear in cluster and turn white when pressed.

Are Fleas Harmful?

Fleas are parasites, which means they suck blood from a living host to survive. They can cause serious diseases such as Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) or Anaemia. Young and frail animals are at an especially high risk of illness or even death as a result of the blood loss suffered from a flea infestation. Flea larvae can also become infected with the Tapeworm egg (Dipylidium caninum), an endoparasite which grows in the body of the flea. Your pet can accidently ingest this worm if, while grooming, it swallows the infected flea.

How to Treat Fleas on Dogs?

There are many suitable flea treatments available for ridding your pet and home of flea infestations. It’s important to follow the guidelines of each treatment and never administer a treatment designed for cats to dogs, or vice versa.

Flea shampoos – are a quick solution and can be used on pets with large numbers of visible fleas on its body. These can be found in our Shampoos and Conditioners section.

Topical (spot on) treatments - work by killing the flea either by interrupting their developmental cycle or directly. These can be found in our Pet Flea and Pest Control section and also in our specialist Canine Pharamcy.

Oral treatments - come as either chewables or pills, they are usually mixed up with your pet’s food and ingested, rather than applied. These can be found in our Pet Flea and Pest Control section and also in our specialist Canine Pharamcy.

Flea collars – work as great preventative measures for dogs by emitting a powerful aroma to repeal fleas. These can be found in our Pet Flea and Pest Control section.

Sprays and foggers – are great to treat the home environment for infestations. These can be found in our Household Flea Control section.

For more information on our Flea Treatments for dogs and their specific pros and cons, click here.

We also recommend treating your dog for worms as well as fleas. If you’re interested, you can find out more about worms in dogs and our available treatments here.

How Often Should I Treat My Dog For Fleas?

This will depend on the product guidelines. Make sure to read each product guideline carefully before use.

What Can I do to Keep Fleas from Coming Back?

Due to the flea lifecycle, it’s common for pet owners to find new emerging fleas in the home environment weeks after initial application of their chosen flea treatment. This is why most vets recommend a multi-pronged approach to dealing with fleas. This means, not only treating your dog for infection, but also your home. Regular use of effective flea treatments will ensure effective prevention of re-infestation. This applies to all seasonal times of year, as fleas and ticks can be just as prevalent in spring and autumn as they thrive in warm, centrally heated homes.