How to Tell if Your Dog Has Fleas

Your dog is your constant companion — binge-watching your favorite TV show with you, joining you on runs or setting records for the most consecutive games of fetch. However, if your pooch has fallen victim to a flea infestation, they might have some constant companions of their own.

Tiny, creepy and known for causing trouble, both adult fleas and flea eggs can be a nuisance. Your furry friend is counting on you to save the day, which means you’ll need all the right pet care supplies (and a little guidance, too) so you can become a pest-busting hero.

Let’s get started!

What’s a Flea, Anyway?

Although the old saying “know thy enemy” probably wasn’t referring to a flea, it’s a good place to start. When you’re an at-home pest expert, you’ll always know how to tell if your dog has fleas.

Let’s brush up on some flea facts:

What Is a Flea?

Fleas are parasitic insects that live on host animals (like your dog) and dine on blood. They live all over the world and in every climate, making them particularly troublesome pests. However, it’s important to note that they’re different from ticks, which are generally larger and have a unique shape and color.

What Do Fleas and Flea Eggs Look Like?

Fleas are tiny and reddish-brown in color. They have six legs and appear almost “hairy,” although that’s difficult to see with the naked eye. When they lay eggs on your dog or other pet, you’ll see little white spots, almost like miniature grains of rice.

What Is the Lifecycle of a Flea?

Contrary to popular belief, adult fleas aren’t your dog’s only problem — or even their biggest one. In fact, the entire flea lifecycle can cause trouble for you and your furry friend.

Here’s how fleas grow:

  • Flea eggs: An adult flea lays its eggs on warm skin, making your dog into a living nursery. Flea eggs are actually more difficult to get rid of than their adult counterparts.
  • Flea larvae: After one to 10 days, flea eggs hatch to reveal larvae, according to the Centers for Disease Control. During this stage, the larvae feed on blood and flea dirt (or flea feces).
  • Flea pupae: In as few as five days, the larval fleas spin cocoons like caterpillars — but instead of beautiful butterflies, they’ll emerge as serious pests. The pupae are protected from some types of flea treatment during this time.
  • Adult fleas: When they’re ready to emerge, adult fleas wait for a sign that their next meal has arrived. Breathing, body heat and movement all signal that it’s time to start the feast. Soon after, females start laying their own eggs, and the cycle begins again.

Does Your Dog Have Fleas?

Now that you know your enemy, it’s time to find out if your dog has fallen victim to a flea invasion. Here are a few tell-tale signs:

You See a Live Flea or Flea Eggs

For the most part, fleas don’t travel alone. If you see one flea or even just a few flea eggs, you’re probably in the middle of a full-blown flea infestation.

Your Dog Is Always Scratching

A flea can be a serious nuisance on your dog’s skin, especially with six little legs moving around and a tiny mouth that’s always biting. Constant scratching suggests something is bothering your furry friend, including the possibility of a flea allergy.

Your Dog Has Pale Gums

Adult fleas can be tiny little gluttons. When they gang up on your dog, they can consume a lot of blood — which, eventually, could cause anemia. If you notice your dog’s gums are light pink or white instead of bright pink, fleas might be to blame; it’s best to make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

You Notice Red Bumps or Spots on Your Pet

Red spots on your dog’s skin are a flea’s calling card. That’s the sign of a flea bite — and this can cause scratching, irritation and even eventual hair loss.

You See Flea Dirt

Flea dirt is a buildup of flea feces. This flea poop is about the size of tiny grains of rice, and since it's digested blood, it usually has a brown or reddish color.

You Have Bites of Your Own

Fleas don’t just bite your dog. If you notice tiny, itchy red spots on your own skin, especially around your feet and ankles, you’ve probably become a flea’s breakfast.

How to Manage a Flea Infestation

So, you’ve found a flea, flea eggs or a full-on flea infestation on your dog. What’s a pet parent to do?

Don’t panic — there are plenty of supplies, solutions and remedies that can help get rid of those creepy crawlies. Here are a few of our favorite tips:

  • Look for the best flea treatments: There are all kinds of flea treatment options out there, but our experts always recommend K9 Advantix and Advantage II to help kick pests to the curb.
  • Try flea collars: Seresto products are just like your dog’s everyday collar, only they’re specially designed to kill, repel and prevent both fleas and ticks.
  • Give your dog a bath: While you’re ordering flea treatment, switch on the tap and give your furry friend a nice warm bath. Regular bathing helps rinse fleas and flea eggs out of your dog’s fur, helping them look, smell and feel their best.
  • Clean, clean, clean: As soon as you see a flea or flea dirt, you’ll probably be eager to give your whole house a scrub-down. Wash dog beds and toys, vacuum the floors, throw human bedding in the laundry machine and do regular cleaning tasks with a little extra vigor.

Say Farewell to Fleas

Whether your dog already has fleas or you’re just trying to stay ahead of the pest game, you’ll want the right tools in your arsenal. At Pet Supermarket, we have a huge selection of flea and tick supplies to help you and your furry friend say farewell to fleas. Plus, if you have any questions, our friendly pet experts are always on hand to guide you toward the best products, solutions and tips.

Visit your nearest Pet Supermarket to learn more about fleas and flea treatment!