How To Know If A Puppy Dog Has Fleas: Tell Tail Signs

Jun 28, 2023 | Dog Health, Parasites

When it comes to fleas on dog’s skin, they are downright pesky! These bloodsucking critters make dogs uncomfortable, damage their skin, and even cause infections. Unfortunately, fleas are common and often lead to skin disease in our furry friends. So it’s vital as a dog owner to watch for those little troublemakers and keep them at bay!

Identifying fleas before they cause destruction is a valuable skill and the best way to prevent flea allergy dermatitis, but those tiny terrors are hard to spot with the naked eye! And most people don’t realize that fleas can get inside pretty easily whether your pet goes outside or not. These parasites can move like lightning and are tough to detect so they can get inside in a number of ways to prey on all your pets. To make things worse, the symptoms they create are similar to those caused by other nasty diseases.

We’ve got your back when it comes to fleas, people! We want to make sure you’re never left guessing. Let us guide you on identifying if your furry friend is carrying around these pesky little intruders, how to squash them once and for all, and some great tips on preventing future surprise flea parties. But don’t forget to talk it over with your vet if you have any suspicions of a flea invasion, or want to prevent one!

The Basics On Identifying Fleas

Imagine you’re chilling on the couch with your pup, and suddenly they start scratching like crazy. Not good, right? But don’t worry, it might just be a flea problem. In fact, Veterinary Dermatologists say the #1 cause for itchiness in dogs and cats is, you guessed it, FLEAS! But once you can spot those pesky suckers, you’re one step closer to relieving your pup from the itchy misery and avoiding hot spots and infections, as well as blood-borne infections. Your furry buddy will thank you for learning to outsmart those little buggers!


What Fleas Look Like

If you’re trying to find fleas on your pooch, it’s like looking for a tiny sesame seed with lightning-fast reflexes! These reddish-brown bugs might not have wings, but they can sure jump like they’re training for the Olympic Games. No wonder they’re so hard to spot! They use comb-like spines on their legs, back, and mouth to hold on tight.

Once on your dogs, fleas love to burrow in your pet’s fur, but even pets without a lot of fur are still targets. What fleas love even more than being able to burrow in fur is the warm body temperature of dogs and cats. Our furry buddies’ normal body temps are normally between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees and to a flea that warm body temp makes for a lovely warm beverage of choice (aka blood)!

You might wonder, how do you find microscopic fleas on your furry friend? Turns out, it’s easier to spot flea dirt, aka flea poop or feces than the buggers themselves! Who knew, right? Veterinarians recommend using a flea comb to search for flea dirt by simply sifting through your pet’s fur and looking for little coffee ground-like black specks or dirt, especially near the tail, and neck/scruff.

Close Up Of Dog Flea

Flea Eggs on Dogs

Did you know it’s harder to spot flea eggs than adult fleas? Flea eggs tend to be oval and off-white in color, looking a lot like grains of salt. They can even be mistaken for dry skin! You might spot them on your dog’s coat if you look carefully. With the help of a flea comb, you can spot these pesky little eggs by gently pushing away the fur.

And when these ninja-like eggs fall off your dog, you may think you’ve eradicated the flea infestation, but oh no, those pesky little critters have a secret weapon: their eggs and larvae. These sneaky buggers can lie dormant in your home on any warm surface like a couch cushion or carpet like tiny ticking flea bombs, just waiting for the right conditions to hatch and attack again. That’s because flea eggs and larvae have a bit of a diva complex – they need everything to be just so before they’re willing to emerge from their cozy little cocoons. So even if you’ve vacuumed, sprayed, and cursed your way through the flea life cycle, those eggs and larvae can still be lurking, waiting for their moment to shine. It’s a good reminder that when it comes to fleas, it’s not enough to nip the problem in the bud – you’ve got to stay vigilant!

Check out this nasty video of the flea lifecycle…if you have the stomach for for it.

Flea Bites On Doggos

Have you ever seen your dog scratching themselves like crazy and later on discovered small, raised red dots on their skin? Well, those little troublemakers may be flea bites!!

These bites can be pretty sneaky as they can be smaller than other insect bites, making it easy to overlook them. However, be aware of their size – they can quickly become inflamed and appear larger if your furry friend can’t resist giving them a good old scratch.

The bite size can vary depending on your dog’s itch reaction. Some dogs barely notice the bites, while others will become acrobatic scratchers due to discomfort or constant itching. The stronger the itch reaction, the more visible the red areas can become. So, be on the lookout for these little red dots and keep your pup’s scratch game in check!

Some dogs have intense allergic reactions to even one flea bite resulting in Flea Allergy Dermatitis which can require a visit to the vet for prescription medication to treat secondary infections, control itchiness and even get on flea prevention that helps to repel flea bites in the first place. Not all flea prevention repels fleas, and not all flea prevention kills fleas well. Talk to your vet to determine the best flea prevention for your pet.

The Most Common Signs Of Fleas On Dogs

There are several signs to watch out for, apart from fleas, flea dirt, and eggs that can confirm their presence on dogs? These signs can also crop up in other conditions, so watch them and speak to your friendly veterinarian if anything seems unusual.


Scratching And Biting

As much as we love our furry friends, sometimes they can drive us crazy with their excessive scratching or biting at their fur. But before you start thinking they’re just being a little bit dramatic or trying to show off their impressive flexibility, consider that this behavior could actually be a sign of fleas.

Yep, those pesky little pests that make our dogs feel like they’re constantly being poked with tiny needles. And it doesn’t take many fleas to cause some severe discomfort. In fact, just one or two can be enough to trigger intense itchiness in dogs with hypersensitivity.

So, if you notice your pup scratching or biting more than usual, it might be time to do a flea check.


Hair Loss Or Skin Wounds

Most pups love a good scratch behind the ears but repeated scratching and biting can severely damage their furry coat and skin.

Flea allergies can leave your dog with red, raw skin hot spots and bald patches, making them look more like naked mole rats than man’s best friend. Those inflamed, hot spots are no joke either – they can be painful for your pup and may require an antibiotic/steroid combo platter from the vet.

And if your furry BFF starts shedding like crazy on his lower back, belly, and thighs, these are signs of flea infestations. So, watch for any signs of skin irritation or hair loss to help your pooch fight those pesky parasites.

Small Red Spots On The Skin

If you see tiny, red, raised spots on your pup’s skin, it’s likely a sign that fleas are the blame, especially if you see them on your dog’s belly or the base of the tail.


The Presence of Flea Dirt

Did you know that flea dirt, which is essentially flea feces (flea poop) in your dog’s fur containing your loyal companion’s digested blood, can often be found on dogs more often than live fleas? An interesting way to identify it is to put some suspected flea dirt on a wet paper towel. Then smear it into the paper towel by pulling your finger towards you in one stroke, and look for a reddish-brown streak. It may be very thin and small, but that is absolute confirmation of fleas!


Pale Gums

Fleas can make your dog’s gums totally pale pink or white. Yikes! Those little buggers can suck blood like crazy, leading to blood loss that results in pale gums. Instead, you want your fur buddy to have lovely salmon-pink, shiny, and moist gums. So, always keep an eye on your dog’s gum color, and if those gums are looking a bit off-color, head to the emergency hospital for a check up; your dog may need flea treatments or it could be something more life-threatening.


Sudden Weight Loss

While it’s not a pleasant thought, fleas can carry tapeworm eggs which can wreak havoc in your furry friend’s intestines if they inadvertently swallow a flea during self-grooming. In a dog that has a tapeworm, you may see unexpected weight loss and diarrhea, which could be problematic. You may also spot tiny sesame-seed-like tapeworm segments near their rear end (these can also look like grains of rice).

Is Your Dog Suffering From Fleas Or An Unrelated Skin Condition?

Regarding skin conditions in dogs, flea allergy is one of the most common and can lead to itchy and uncomfortable symptoms. But fleas are not always the cause! Food allergies, pollen allergies, dry skin, and fungal infections can also be the culprits. So, how do you nail down the source of the problem? Keep an eye out for signs like scratching and licking, but you’ll need to do some detective work and actually spot fleas, flea dirt, or flea eggs to know for sure.

This is why getting your fur baby to the veterinarian is so important once you start noticing some of the above-mentioned symptoms. They’ll be able to test your pup for alternative skin issues and allergies and confirm whether the problem is due to fleas.

How To Get Rid Of Fleas

If your dog has fleas, just treating them won’t solve the problem. Those pesky little fleas can hop off your dog and onto your cat, hamster, or even pet rock collection. (Hey, we don’t judge your pets!) So treating all your furry (or not-so-furry) friends is essential.

But wait, there’s more! Those fleas don’t just live on your pets – they can hide in your carpets, bedding, and even your favorite recliner. So, don’t forget to treat your environment as well. Make sure to vacuum and clean everything in a washing machine using hot water to eliminate those new fleas for good. This should be repeated often, making sure to target any bedding and areas that your pets like to lay often. Be sure to empty your vacuum’s canister outside of your home and into a trash bag, because remember those little bugger’s jump high and the adults will absolutely jump out of your trash can inside your home.

It’s also recommended to use an EPA-recommended pest repellant, something like Mycodex Environmental Control Aerosol Household Spray, and follow all instructions when using it inside your home. It can take months to get rid of a flea infestation in your home, so be patient, control any symptoms in your pet and keep them on prevention. Truly, when it comes to fleas, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!


How To Kill Fleas On Dogs

When it comes to flea removal, the proper treatment plan to kill them will depend on your individual dog and their home environment. That’s why pet owners must consult their vet to determine the best course of action, especially for severe cases. But the good news is treating the presence of fleas can be accomplished before it becomes a severe infestation.

One thing’s for sure though: treating all pets in the home is a must. Trust us, you don’t want those pesky fleas jumping from one pup to the next like they’re playing a game of “Hot Flea-Potato.” But don’t worry! The veterinary-recommended products are generally safe and highly effective in removing those itchy freeloaders from your pups.

Your vet may suggest a dual attack plan to rid yourself of these pesky critters. Tablets or chews with nitenpyram are the first line of attack, killing adult fleas on contact. But don’t get too excited, these products only last for one day. To ensure complete annihilation, you’ll need a long-acting flea preventive that will kill multiple life stages.

Luckily, your veterinarian can hook you up with a prescription lasting one to three months. IGRs (Insect growth regulator) are also available in oral and topical treatment options, preventing flea eggs from maturing into adult fleas. Prescription flea medication is way more effective (and safer!) than over-the-counter products. So don’t let those fleas get the best of you, get to your vet and kick them to the curb!


Killing Fleas In The Home

You might think getting rid of the dog fleas is the solution to a flea infestation. But guess what? It’s not! You’ll have to clean your dog’s environment and home to eliminate these pesky bloodsuckers. Not sure how? Don’t worry, here are some tips to help you annihilate those fleas!

According to Ohio State University researchers, vacuuming is the most effective way to eliminate fleas in every flea life cycle. Who knew your trusty vacuum cleaner could be your secret weapon against these tiny, bloodsucking pests? So, grab your vacuum cleaner and get that cleaning party started! Experts suggest vacuuming every day if you can, or at least every other day. Don’t forget to focus on those hidden areas like closets and crevices, as well as open rugs and carpets. Oh, and don’t forget to vacuum under your cushions and furniture while you’re at it!

Use a vacuum with excellent suction power and chuck the canister/bag with the fleas into the trash (make sure to seal it tight!) and take the trash outside immediately, or if you have a stick vac take that baby outside with a small bag and empty your canister directly into that then toss the bag into the trash bin. And using hot steam and soap from a steam cleaner can destroy fleas of all ages, as suggested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Wash everything your dog spends a lot of time on using the hottest cycle possible with laundry detergent or bleach, including bedding and upholstery. Once washed, make sure to place everything in the dryer.

And if the flea infestation is severe, it might be time to say goodbye to those items and replace them with new ones. But if you want to salvage your furry friend’s bed, we recommend using IRG spray to kill the pesky flea eggs. Just follow the directions on the spray to ensure your pet’s safety.

It may also be necessary to stop your dog from sleeping on any upholstered furniture. To cut down on multiple generations of fleas from popping up, keep pets off furniture until you’ve had a chance to nip the issue in the bud.

How To Prevent Fleas On Dogs

Applying Flea Prevention On Dog

Here’s the worst-kept secret among all veterinarians: preventing fleas as pet parents is easier and cheaper than getting rid of them! Trust me, those pesky critters can reproduce faster than you can say “doggy bath time.” Want to avoid the headache altogether? Here are some tips to spare you and your furry companion from the scratchy, itchy fate that is a flea infestation:


Use A Flea Preventative Medication Product On A Regular Basis

To keep fleas at bay, it’s crucial to have a prevention plan in place. And no, wearing a flea circus top hat doesn’t count.

While plenty of over-the-counter (OTC) flea products are available, I’m sorry to say that not all of them are effective. Fleas can actually develop resistance to some of these products, so you’ll want to make sure you’re using something trustworthy.

Your veterinarian is the best resource for recommendations – whether it’s a prescription preventative like oral chews or topicals or flea collars if your pup is allergic to the oral options. Just remember, consistency is key!


Develop A Good Grooming Routine With Your Dog

Looking to keep fleas at bay on your pets and in your home? A good grooming routine can do the trick! Grab your trusty fine-tooth flea comb and thoroughly sift through your furry friend’s hair to spot fleas, their dirt, or even flea eggs. Feeling unsure about doing it yourself? Head to a professional pet groomer on the regular cause they’re trained pros at detecting fleas and are a fantastic alternative if you find it challenging to tell if your dog or cat has fleas on your own.

And the same steps of cleaning your home to get rid of fleas could also be used to prevent and control them. Practice regular vacuuming and bedding washing to achieve the best results.

And be cautious of who your pups associate with when they go potty or out for walks! Fleas thrive on wild animals like raccoons, coyotes, and stray cats. Limit your pooch’s encounters with them. If you feel extra crafty, consider putting netting around your food plants or building a fence as a humane wildlife deterrent. Also, avoid any areas where leaves, and brush accumulate as well as wood piles; all kinds of critters like to nest in these areas bringing fleas with them.

Dog Being Checked for Fleas Using A Flea Comb

Safety Precautions When Using Flea Products

Before using any pesticide-based flea-preventative products, check with your veterinarian. You don’t want these things interfering with your pets’ medications!

Also, please don’t use products made for doggos on kitties. Seriously! Dogs and cats cannot receive the same flea prevention due to the pesticide class pyrethrins being extremely toxic to cats. So cat flea treatment will need to be handled using different oral medications or topical products.

And a last note on safety precautions, if you have exotic species around, ensure they’re cool around the ingredients in your pet’s products! Some of ’em can be a bit sensitive. As always, check with your veterinarian.

Flea Prevention Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my puppy has fleas?

Look out for physical signs such as redness or bald patches on their skin, excessive chewing or licking at specific parts of their body, and finding tiny black dots that could indicate adult fleas or eggs. You can also check for flea dirt which looks like black pepper sprinkled on the fur.


What is the best way to prevent fleas from infecting my puppy?

Maintaining a clean environment for your pup by regularly vacuuming their bedding and, brushing them down with a flea comb, applying topical prevention treatments or oral medication regularly are great ways to keep fleas away from your pup.


Are there any long-term treatments available for puppies with flea infestations?

Yes! Using an oral medication that will rid them of any existing infestations as well as keep new ones at bay is recommended. This type of medication is usually administered monthly. For very young or small puppies like those less than 8 weeks of age, or under 2 pounds of weight consult your veterinarian because most prescription and over the counter products are not labeled for those fur babies. However, there are safe products that can be used at the recommendation of and under guidance of your vet.


What should I do if I think my puppy dog has fleas?

If you suspect that your dog has been infected with fleas, take them to the vet right away for treatment options that will help get rid of the infestation.


How often should I check my puppy for fleas?

It’s a good idea to give your puppy dog a thorough comb examination with a fine-tooth flea comb at least once per month to check for any signs of infection.


Is it safe to use topical prevention treatments on my puppy?

Yes, most topical flea prevention treatments are safe for puppies as long as you follow the instructions and dosage recommendations listed on the packaging. For puppies that don’t fit the dosage recommendations, contact your veterinarian.


What type of environment should I maintain in order to prevent fleas from infecting my puppy?

Keeping your pup’s environment clean by regularly vacuuming their bedding and brushing them down with a flea comb is key when it comes to preventing fleas from infecting them.


Are there any natural remedies that can help get rid of fleas on my puppy dog?

Yes, there are so-called “natural remedies or repellants” for fleas. Do they work? Eh, sure, until you get fleas. You may get lucky and not have fleas for years. You may get lucky and not use anything to prevent fleas and not have them for years or even decades. Then one day, you’ll be calling your vet for their recommended prevention because your “flea treats”, garlic, citrus, or lavender oil, didn’t do squat to prevent fleas, and your fur baby is tearing his skin apart because he has a flea allergy and literally can’t sleep at night because he was bitten by a flea. There are, unfortunately, a lot of “snake oil” type products out there marketed as “safe”, “all-natural”, or “organic” treatments and preventatives for fleas. But truly, your veterinarian is the best resource; these people spent a lot of time earning a higher degree or degrees and most likely went into deep debt to answer this question over and over ad nauseam like a broken record (get the drift?).


How often should I use an oral medication for flea prevention?

It’s recommended to administer oral medication each month of the year. This will help keep existing infestations at bay as well as prevent new ones from occurring.


What if my puppy dog is allergic to some of the ingredients in topical prevention treatments?

If your dog has any adverse effects or suspects adverse effects after taking an oral flea prevention product, consult with your veterinarian. The most commonly reported side effects of oral flea prevention are GI-related (vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, anorexia). Any adverse effect(s) may have been a coincidence, so your vet may recommend giving it shortly after eating a meal or may recommend switching to a topical product instead, depending on the symptoms noted. Another option is to call the manufacturer of the product; they may refund you or have a suggestion regarding the administration of the product. In many cases with oral products, most manufacturers recommend giving the product on 2-3 different occasions when the pet is not having any gi symptoms and is otherwise normal and watching for adverse events before saying that the product is not a good fit for your pet.


I’ve heard some flea prevention products cause seizures. Is this true?

With some oral products, the seizure threshold can be lowered in those pets with epilepsy and predisposed to seizures. In patients with epilepsy that are not on anti-epileptic drugs (AED’s) and thus their seizures are not controlled with medication, you should consult with your veterinarian about what products they recommend for flea prevention.

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