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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.

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 flea allergic dogs 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.

For further information on keeping your dog parasite-free, browse our other blogs

Written by Lindsay Rose MA VetMB CertAVP CertVBM MRCVS.