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How to Tell if Your Dog Has Fleas, By Dr. Jan Bellows

Perhaps one of the most common irritations for your dog’s skin is that of the flea. An annoying little insect with a powerful shell, flea bites cause dogs to scratch and bite themselves with such a fury that they can often pull out their own hair with their teeth and cut their own skin with their nails. Fleas may not be a serious health concern on their own, but the bites can cause such irritation that your dog will hurt itself trying to relieve it, which can lead to infection and other problems. In addition, fleas are not shy to bite humans, and their bites can be equally as itchy.

Signs Your Dog Has Fleas

The best way to find out if your dog has fleas is to pay attention to the obvious and unobvious signs. Some of the signs that your dog has fleas include:

·         Excessive Scratching or Chewing

Perhaps the most obvious sign that a dog has fleas is a constant biting of their own skin or scratching with their nails. Depending on the severity of the itch, the scratching and biting can be fairly aggressive, and it is not uncommon to see clumps of hair ripped out from some of the medium to longer hair breeds. Assuming your dog has had a full bath and the irritations are not caused by allergy, chances are there is a flea there somewhere.

·         Flea Dirt

Fleas, like all animals, need to poop. Flea waste is very unique. Filled with blood, fleas like to leave their waste in a single location on your dog so that it can be out of the way of their eating area. If you see a small patch of what appears to be a pepper looking substance on your dog’s skin, chances are it is flea waste (often referred to as “flea dirt”). If you dab it with a wet cloth, the dirt will often be dark red due to the presence of blood.

·         Checking for Fleas

One of the reasons these alternative signs are important is because fleas do a tremendous job of hiding. But your dog only has a limited amount of skin. If you check inside of hidden areas, such as on the inside of the leg, or beneath a large clump of hair, it is not uncommon to find a flea presence. They will run away quickly and are fast jumpers, so you cannot pick them out one by one, but at least you can know your dog has fleas and do something about it.

·         Red Bumps on Your Legs

Fleas are biters, and if your dog has fleas, chances are they will bite you too. If you have mosquito bites despite seeing no mosquitoes, there is a good chance they are flea bites from a stray insect that jumped from your dog to your leg. This is especially true when combined with any of the other observations noted above.

Treat Quickly/Easily – Use Known Brands

When you find your dog has fleas, you should quickly treat it with an effective flea killer. However, make sure you use one of the main brands recommended by your vet. Flea killer is a toxin, and the cheaper brands can injure your dog’s organs when used for a long period of time. By killing the fleas on your dog early, you will be able to drastically reduce the amount of irritation your dog feels, as well as ensure that you, yourself, do not wake up in the morning with a great deal of itchy red bumps from these annoying flightless insects.