How to Check for Fleas What to Look for When You're Looking For Fleas

Learn how to check for fleas on your pet by using a flea comb.

If you are a parent and your child has ever been sent home from school with lice, you know the guilty feelings that can go along with it: Could I have done something to prevent this? Is my kid not clean enough? Are all the other parents judging me? Don’t beat yourself up.  In reality, kids can pick up lice anytime, anywhere. The same goes for fleas. No matter how well-groomed your dog or cat, fleas can get the best of any pet owner.

The best thing you can do (aside from making sure your pet is receiving proper preventative care--we are partial to spot on and oral options) is to check your pet regularly. Fleas are often tiny and hard to see with the naked eye, so pay attention if your pup is scratching more than usual or your cat seems highly irritable (or at least more irritable than usual)--a small flea infestation may be to blame.

When in Doubt, Brush Them Out

The simplest and most effective way to check for fleas is with a flea comb. This basic process will allow you to see under your dog’s fluffy and furry coat to see signs of trouble. Look for red bumps, black dots, and flea dirt (aka flea feces). Oftentimes, these signs are found toward the base of the tail.

Not blessed with 20/20 vision? Even with prescription glasses, fleas can be difficult to detect. To make sure you aren’t missing the cold hard evidence, have your dog or cat lay down on a white sheet or towel while you comb or blow-dry their fur. Oftentimes, fleas will jump off or flea dirt will fall, making them stand out. To ensure you are not sounding the alarm for normal outdoor garden mud, rub any collected flea dirt or dark spots onto a wet tissue or paper towel. If the substance turns from black to a dark rust color, you have identified “flea dirt” or flea feces, which contains blood.

To prevent any future flea issues, it is recommended by veterinarians and pet specialists that both cats and dogs receive year-round preventative treatment. However, if you do detect fleas on your pet, treatment options are varied, simple, and effective. Routine application of proven anti-flea medications such as Advantix for dogs can effectively keep disease-causing fleas at bay.

What Does a Flea Bite Look Like?

Whether you’re a cat, a dog, or a human, the evidence of a flea bite is usually felt before it's seen. That is why it is so important to use preventatives like Advantage for dogs or Advantage for cats. But how do you know if that itchy red dot was caused by a flea or another pest? Learn what flea bites look like and how to spot them.

Why Do Fleas Bite?

Fleas are parasitic insects that feed off the blood of warm-blooded animals. Their mouths have adapted to pierce the skin and suck blood from their hosts, which cat be the cat, dog, or other animals they live on. Fleas feed off their hosts for sustenance and survival, and females lay up to 200 eggs at a time in the first 48 hours of feeding.

Common pet fleas prefer to live on either cats or dogs, but will not likely discriminate if you have both in your home. Adult fleas can live without blood for months at a time, but if they have already taken up residence on your pet, they won’t likely be fasting.

Flea Bites on Pets

Flea bites on a cat that have escalated into flea allergy dermatitis. Usually, the hair will cover the red bites.

Flea bites on cats or dogs sometimes appear as raised red dots that are smaller than typical bug bites. In many cases, you might not be able to see the bites on your pet’s skin despite an infestation of fleas. An animal or pet that is allergic to the flea bite will have a reaction, which can result in a much larger area of redness.

Symptoms of Flea Bites on Pets

When pets itch their flea bites, the symptoms can worsen or bites can become infected. Pets that are hypersensitive to flea saliva may feel an itching sensation over their entire body from just one bite. Severe reactions can lead to hair loss, inflammation, and skin infections.

Are Flea Bites Evident on Pets?

Finding actual flea bites on your pet can be difficult. You may or may not see small bites on their skin, or distinct areas of redness when you sort through their fur. The best way to determine if the bite came from a flea rather than a mite or a different pest is to search for evidence of fleas. Read more on checking your pet for fleas.

Flea Bites on Humans

Cat and dog fleas prefer to hide in thick fur, and cannot live on human bodies. They can, however, take a juicy bite before they jump onto a more suitable host. Flea bites on people tend to be smaller than mosquito bites, or even pimples. In areas where itching occurs, look for tiny, red, raised bumps about the size of a needle mark on your skin. Flea bites on humans typically appear on ankles and lower legs. If you’re not sure it’s a flea bite, check your pets for fleas. They will carry more evidence of an infestation.

More Flea and Tick Control Advice

How to Use a Flea Comb
Flea and Tick Season: When to Use What Treatment
What's the Best Way to Get Rid of Fleas for Your Pet?

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professionals with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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