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dog has fleas

How to tell if your dog has fleas

Fleas are the most common parasite affecting dogs and can be easily spread to your pet from the environment or close contact with other infested animals. How do you know if your dog has fleas?

Fleas often cause scratching and skin damage, which can be distressing for everyone involved, but your dog won’t always show you when they are suffering from fleas. 

Did you know, not all dogs with fleas scratch!

The reaction to the presence of fleas varies between animals. The clinical signs of a flea infestation will vary depending on how often your pet is exposed to fleas, how long they have had a flea infestation, if they have other skin disease present and if they have developed hypersensitivity to flea saliva.

Why is my dog itchy?

One flea bite is mildly irritating for your pet, however, the majority of cats and dogs exposed to fleas on a long-term basis will develop hypersensitivity.

Symptoms can vary from the occasional scratch in non-allergic animals to severe itchiness causing self-mutilation and secondary infections. Many dogs who are allergic to fleas will suddenly spin round to nibble at the site of a flea bite.

What is Flea Allergy Dermatitis?

Flea hypersensitivity is thought to be due to the development of an allergy to flea saliva and is called Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). FAD is the most common cause of itchy skin disease. Classic signs of flea allergy in the dog involve a skin reaction on the lower back, around the tail base and down the backs of the legs. The hair is often short and stubbly due to nibbling and secondary infections of the skin often occur secondary to self-trauma.

How do I check my dog for fleas?

The best place to find fleas is around your pet’s tail base or ears. A flea comb can be used to find adult fleas and their faeces. Flea faeces are digested blood, and they look like small specks of dark red dirt.

A useful test is the white paper test; brush your pet’s coat vigorously over a sheet of white paper to look for fleas and their faeces. Moistening the paper will cause a red halo to form around the flea faeces, this is useful for distinguishing between dirt and flea faeces.

What to do if my dog has fleas

When it comes to fleas, all the experts agree, prevention is better than cure. The only way to prevent fleas is to use a high-quality flea treatment at the interval recommended by the manufacturer. A Protect My Pet subscription box provide a convenient solution to fleas. High quality market-leading products are delivered to your door just as they are required. When it arrives in the post it’s time to dose! 

For further information on keeping your dog parasite-free, see our other flea blogs.

Written by Lindsay Rose MA VetMB CertAVP CertVBM MRCVS.