Dogs love to get dirty. Regardless of whether your pet has been playing in the woods, meeting other pups, or rolling around outside, it’s likely that you’ll wonder at some point if your dog has fleas. But how can you be sure? Luckily, there are a few easy tricks to tell if your dog has fleas – without going to the vet.
But first – what’s the deal with flea bites? Fleas are tiny parasitic pests that thrive in warm weather. Fleas feed on the blood of mammals and spread rapidly by jumping from host to host. The bite of a flea can leave you and your pet feeling itchy and irritated, but you can start the flea elimination process just as soon as you confirm your flea problem.
How to tell if your dog has fleas
The first way to identify your dog’s flea problem is also the most obvious. If your pet has been scratching himself more than usual, he might have fleas. You can proceed by checking your dog’s skin if you notice him itching. In severe cases, your pup might start losing fur where he’s scratching the most. This is the primary sign that your dog has fleas.
2. Irritated skin
If you notice your dog itching, it’s likely that his skin is also irritated. In the areas he’s been scratching, pull back and inspect the hair. If you notice redness or bumps, it’s likely you’ve stumbled upon an area where fleas have set up shop. You may also find a live flea this way, which could help confirm your suspicions.
3. Flea “dirt”
If you’ve ever seen Charlie Brown, you may recall Pig-Pen, the flea-covered character who’s seemingly dripping in dirt. Now is the time to check for that same flea “dirt” on your pup. Be warned, however, that flea “dirt” is not the same as normal dirt. In fact, it’s actually the flea feces that your dog’s new visitors have passed.
To check for flea “dirt,” place a paper towel on the ground by your pup as you brush him. Any dirt that comes off him is likely of the flea variety. To be sure it’s not normal dirt, sprinkle some water onto the paper towel. If the dirt becomes reddish in color, it is flea “dirt” (and the red color is coming from blood the fleas have digested).
4. Flea check
If you’re still not sure whether your dog has fleas, it might be time to get a flea comb. These super-fine-tooth combs help pull up any fleas as you work through your dog’s hair. Keep in mind that fleas are dark brown (almost black) in color, and that they have a hard outer shell. If the pest you find is easy to squish, your pup may have a different kind of bug problem.
Using any and all of these tips can help you determine whether your dog has fleas. If you’ve completed these checks (with no sign of fleas) and still think something is wrong, visit your vet. The signs of fleas may be symptoms of something more serious.
And whether or not you find a flea, be sure to give your pup some love. No one wants itchy skin, and your dog deserves a treat after dealing with the discomfort of fleas.