How To Tell if Your Dog Has Fleas: Signs and Symptoms

Fleas are a common problem for dogs, and they can lead to a number of health issues if not addressed. These parasites can invade your dog’s fur and skin, causing itching, scratching, and even infections. If you suspect that your dog has fleas, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms so that you can take the proper preventive measures and remedial action. In this article, we’ll go over how to tell if your dog has fleas and what you can do to get rid of them.

What are fleas?

Fleas are small, wingless insects that live exclusively on the blood of animals, including dogs. They are generally brown or reddish-brown in color and are less than 1/8 inch long. Fleas can jump up to 7 inches high and 13 inches long, making them incredibly agile and difficult to catch. They can also reproduce or procreate very quickly, with a single female flea laying up to 50 eggs per day.

How Do Dogs Get Fleas?

Dogs can get fleas from a variety of sources, including other animals, the environment, and even humans. Fleas can live in carpets, bedding, and furniture, and can easily transfer to your dog when they encounter these infested areas. Outdoor areas such as parks and fields can also be infested with fleas, and your dog can pick them up while playing or walking.

Signs and Symptoms of Fleas in Dogs

Below are the most obvious signs of fleas in dogs.

Scratching and Biting

The most prevalent sign that your dog has fleas is too much scratching and biting. If you notice your dog scratching or biting at its skin more than normal, it’s likely that it has fleas. Dogs with fleas will often scratch and bite at their skin until it becomes red, inflamed, and even bleeding.

Red Bumps or Rashes

Another sign of fleas in dogs is the appearance of red bumps or blotches on their skin. These bumps are usually tiny, and elevated, and can be found around the neck, base of the tail, and belly. In some cases, the rash may even spread to other areas of the body. If you notice red bumps or rashes on your dog’s skin, it’s a good idea to check for fleas.

Hair Loss

Fleas can cause your dog to lose its hair, particularly around the tail and hindquarters. This is the result of constant scratching and biting that can cause skin irritation and damage the hair follicles. If you notice bald patches on your dog’s skin, it could be a sign of a flea infestation.

Flea Filth

Flea filth is another sign of fleas in dogs. Flea dirt is the feces of fleas and appears as small, black flecks on your dog’s skin and fur. To check for flea dirt, part your dog’s fur and inspect for black or brown specks that resemble dirt or pepper.

Restlessness and Irritability

Fleas can cause your dog to feel restless and irritable. They may have trouble sleeping or seem agitated and uncomfortable. Your dog may also exhibit other signs of discomfort, such as pacing or panting.

Other Complications

Flea bites are common and typically result in minor skin irritation, such as redness, itching, and swelling. However, in some cases, flea bites can lead to complications. Some of the possible complications of flea bites include:

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)

FAD is a skin inflammatory condition brought on by an allergic response to flea saliva. Dogs with FAD are hypersensitive to flea bites, and even a single bite can trigger a severe reaction.


Fleas are intermediate hosts for tapeworms, which can infect dogs when they ingest fleas while grooming themselves. Gastrointestinal issues, weight, and poor coat quality can all be brought on by tapeworms.

Bacterial Infections

Flea bites can cause skin abrasions, which can become infected with bacteria. Infected wounds can lead to cellulitis, a severe bacterial skin infection that can spread to other parts of the body.


Anemia in severe cases, fleas can cause anemia in dogs. This can cause your dog to become weak, lethargic, and even collapse. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, it’s important to seek veterinary care immediately.

dog fleas in Wilmington, DE

How to Check for Fleas in Dogs

If you suspect that your dog has fleas, there are several ways to check for them.

Flea Comb

A flea comb is a specialized comb that can help you detect fleas on your dog’s fur. Begin by brushing your dog’s fur from head to tail, concentrating on the areas where fleas are most likely to hide, such as the neck, tummy, and tail. After each stroke, inspect the comb for fleas or flea dirt.

White Towel Test

The white towel test involves placing a white towel on the ground and brushing your dog’s fur strenuously over the towel. The flea dirt will fall onto the towel, making it noticeable.

Visual Inspection

Carefully check your dog’s skin for fleas and flea dirt by visually inspecting their fur. Use a flashlight to check the areas where fleas are most likely to hide, such as the neck, belly, and tail.

Search for Flea Dirt

After combing your dog’s fur, check the comb for dark specks, which could be flea dirt.

Check Your Dog’s Bedding

Check your dog’s bedding for flea dirt or live fleas.

How to Prevent Fleas in Dogs

Preventing flea infestations in dogs is essential to keeping them healthy and happy. Here are some tips to help prevent flea infestations in dogs.

Regular Grooming

Regular grooming is essential to maintain good hygiene and detect any flea infestations early. Brushing your dog’s fur regularly can help remove any fleas or flea dirt that may be present.

Use Flea Preventative Treatments

There are several flea-preventative treatments available, including flea collars, topical treatments, and oral medications. These treatments can help prevent flea infestations and keep your dog protected from fleas.  If you have a flea infestation, a high quality product must be used for a minimum of 4 months in a row in order to break the life cycle.  All pets in the household must be protected during this time period.

Vacuum Your Home

Fleas can lay eggs in your carpets and furniture, leading to infestations. Vacuuming your home regularly can help remove any flea eggs or larvae that may be present.

Wash Your Dog’s Bedding

Fleas can lay eggs in your dog’s bedding, so it is essential to wash them regularly. Use hot water and a flea detergent to kill any fleas or flea eggs that may be present.

Keep Your Home Clean

Infestations of fleas may be avoided by keeping the house tidy and clear of clutter. Maintaining a clean and orderly house is crucial because fleas flourish in untidy spaces.

Treat Your Yard

Fleas can live in your yard, so it is essential to treat them with a flea repellent. You can use flea sprays or hire a professional pest control service to treat your yard if necessary.

Avoid Contact with Infested Animals

Fleas can spread quickly from one animal to another. Therefore, it is essential to avoid contact with infected animals to prevent flea infestations in your dog.

Flea Control

Treating your dog with flea control products, such as flea collars, spot-on treatments, or oral medications, can help prevent future flea infestations and reduce the risk of further flea bites.

Soothing Your Dog’s Flea Symptoms

If your dog has fleas, there are some things you can do to help relieve some of their symptoms.


Giving your dog a bath with a mild, non-irritating shampoo can help soothe the skin and remove any remaining fleas or flea dirt.

Cold Compress

Applying a cold pack to the afflicted region can help to relieve both swelling and itching.

Oral medications

In severe cases, a veterinarian may prescribe oral medications such as anti-itch medications, steroids, or antibiotics to help manage the symptoms of flea bites and prevent infections.


It’s important to monitor your dog’s flea bites and seek veterinary care if the bites become infected or if your dog shows signs of an allergic reaction, such as swelling or difficulty breathing.

If you are looking for flea prevention or treatment near Wilmington, DE, reach out to Wilmington Animal Hospital  at (302) 762-2694