Ultimate Guide to Fleas on Dogs: Signs, Treatment & Prevention

10 Minute Read
Updated March 16, 2023


If your dog's got that seasonal itch, you might be dealing with dog fleas.

My dog has fleas! What now? The number one question that pet owners ask is. “How to get rid of fleas on my dog?”

The bites from adult fleas itch, can become infected and cause hair loss.  Not to mention, the small creepy crawlies will also bite humans and make them just as miserable as their four-legged counterparts. Your goal will be to kill fleas and halt the flea infestation. This will entail not only killing the adult fleas, but also the flea eggs.

What is a Flea?

fleas on dogs

Aside from being a total nuisance, of course - the scientific name for fleas is Siphonaptera, which includes about 2500 different species of fleas, such as the dog flea and the cat flea.

Fleas are small, flightless insects that feed off of the blood of mammals and birds. These little brown bugs usually grow to be only about 1.5-3 millimetres in length or about the height of a penny or two. 

Not only do fleas cause allergic reactions in pets, but they also carry intestinal worms, Lyme disease, hot spots, cause severe itching, irritated skin, and make the lives of dogs and cats miserable.

Life Cycle of the Flea

The flea life cycle goes through four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and finally, adult. The parasite requires a host animal. When a flea larva hatches, it needs blood before it can mature and reproduce. A single female flea lays up to 50 flea eggs every day.

When the female lays eggs every day for 60 days, she will produce over 20,000 offspring in only two months, which will lead to a widespread flea infestation.

Types of Fleas in Canada

rid your dog of fleas

While you might hear of dog fleas and cat fleas, either species can get both. However, the most common type of flea you'll find in Canada (and North America) is cat fleas, so if you suspect your dog has signs of flea feces, this is most likely the culprit.

Dog fleas are less picky. Though they aren't as common as cat fleas, dog fleas, or Ctenocephalides Canis or Ctenocephalides felis will feast on dogs, cats, and humans if we are convenient. 

Wild animals can carry fleas, such as the common flea, which can then infest your furry friend. Once on your pet, the adult flea will start to bite and drink your dog's blood.

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7 Signs of Fleas on Dogs


what to do to get rid of fleas on dogs


You might become suspicious of an infestation when your dog starts scratching themselves more than usual. They might also bite and lick at the sites of irritation.

1. Bite Marks

This might be one of the first signs you think to look for when you notice your pet scratching. Bites from fleas appear in clusters as well as in rows.

These bites will likely be hard to spot depending on the density of your dog's fur, so it's important to be paying attention to the other more overt signs. Look on the hind legs and near the base of the tail to find fleas. It's often hard to spot fleas on large dogs.

2. Dirt/Feces

It may look like regular dirt, but it is actually flea feces, which is digested blood. You might not spot the fleas, but you will see the flea dirt. Flea dirt is one of the easier-to-spot signs and can often be found in hidden and warm areas like the belly, armpits, and neck.

You'll typically notice the most abundance near the dog's tail and along the back, which are favourite spots for the fleas to congregate.

Flea dirt on dogs is messy and unsanitary. With a heavy infestation, the non-stop feeding of the pet's blood can even lead to anemia and other health dangers.

3. Scabs

You might notice some scabs where your pet has repeatedly been scratching and biting. When bacteria get under healed skin, it can fester and form an abscess which is a much bigger issue. Proper wound and infection treatment are important, so talk to your vet to make sure you are using the right treatments.

4. Hair Loss

The dog's fleas themselves don't cause loss of hair- this is from repeated itching and biting over the same areas. However, a bald spot could indicate that your dog has fleas, especially if the spot is in the “flea triangle” near the base of the tail on the lower back.

5. Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Flea allergies are often mistaken for dog food allergies or environmental allergies. Unfortunately, this often leads to you treating the symptoms instead of the cause and prolonging your pet's suffering.

6. Tapeworms

Sometimes when your dog bites and licks in response to a flea bite, they end up swallowing a flea that's been infected with tapeworm larvae. This is a common side effect of fleas.

Once it's ingested, the tapeworm can develop into an adult, where it matures in the intestines. Signs of tapeworms include visible segments of the worm that get passed in the fresh stool.

7. Anemia

Anemia refers to a low red blood cell count. Since fleas feed on their host's blood, it makes sense that significant activity could lead to anemia. This is especially true in puppies and small dogs with less blood volume, but thankfully anemia due to fleas is rare.


How to Kill Fleas

prevention of fleas on dogs

Here are some standard flea treatments for flea control, in addition to those prescribed by your veterinarian, that you might use to kill adult fleas and halt the flea life cycle.

1. Shampoo

Flea shampoo is an easy, low-risk first step that kills adult fleas on the dog's skin. Zodiac Double Action Flea & Tick Shampoo for Dogs & Cats is fast-acting and kills fleas. In addition to killing flea eggs for up to four weeks, it will also remove flea dirt.

This gentle formula uses coconut oil, lanolin, aloe, and oatmeal to help soothe angry skin and is suitable for sensitive types. It is recommended to use the shampoo monthly for residual problems and weekly for severe cases. Medicated shampoo kills fleas on dogs and removes flea dirt to control infestations.

The last thing you want after getting rid of the fleas is for them to come back because you didn't get them all! Killing adult fleas, larvae, and eggs is challenging, but it is doable. Shampoo kills fleas fast, and many dogs respond well to the soothing spa-like treatment.

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2. Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a topical treatment made up of silicon dioxide, a powder made from fossilized aquatic organisms called diatoms.

Baie Run Diatomaceous Earth is odourless and non-staining and can be applied to an affected area. However, when fleas or other bugs crawl over the powder, it destroys their exoskeleton and kills them.

While diatomaceous earth is a safe and natural formula, it isn't always as effective as chemical treatments. Find out more about it in Diatomaceous Earth for Dogs and how it can kill fleas and ticks.

3. Flea Treatments

Flea treatments designed to get rid of infestations come in many formats, some more effective than others. Most treatments take care of flea and tick infestations.

Flea treatments and flea sprays are one way to kill off any live pests that are causing your pooch discomfort. Topical flea medications are the most effective option for getting rid of fleas at all life stages.

They contain ingredients that not only rid your dog of fleas but also inhibit the eggs from hatching, causing them to die off and halt the life cycle. The topical medications also work for preventing fleas in your dog's coat.

3. Oatmeal Treatment

An oatmeal treatment like Tropiclean OxyMed Medicated Oatmeal Treatment can help soothe itching and flaking from fleas. In addition, it can help hydrate your pet's coat and bring some much-needed relief!

The oatmeal soapy water will remove fleas and organic debris such as feces and soothe your dog's skin problems.

4. Flea Combs

A flea comb is a small comb with really close teeth that allow you to physically pick out live adult fleas. It is one of the great flea control products.

Removing fleas with the comb is easy. Of course, this won't get rid of the infestation, but it can help to reduce some of the annoying and uncomfortable bites while other treatments work to kill any developing fleas.



Flea Prevention for Dogs

Ultimately, the best flea treatment is prevention. You'll definitely agree with this if you've already dealt with a case! Seasonal flea treatments, regular grooming, and random spot checks will all help to reduce the possibility of flea infestations on your dog. 

Once you start noticing the signs of fleas, the female fleas have likely already started laying eggs. So get to them before they get to your dog using these preventative measures!

1.  Bug Spray

A bug spray with natural essential oils can help ward off bugs, including fleas. Citrobug Insect Hunt for Dog and Horses Spray is made from camphor, pine needles and geranium while being free from deet, harmful ingredients, and paraben so you can feel more at ease while your dog plays outside! 

Shop Citrobug

2. Flea Protection

Bayer K9 Advantix offers several topical once-monthly protection products that can help prevent and control an active flea problem. There are several options to choose from according to the size of your dog and the flea life stages. So whether they're smallmediumlarge, or extra-large, know that you're taking an extra step to protect your pet from fleas! This product starts working 12 hours after application and is waterproof after 24 hours.

Capstar Fast-Acting Oral Flea tablets start working within 30 minutes and are 100% effective against fleas after 24 hours.  It is a great flea and tick prevention.

3. Clean Often

Don't forget to wash your pet's bedding periodically in hot water and dry it on high heat or in the sun to kill any eggs or larvae that might be present. Vacuum carpets and sweep hardwood floors.

Vacuum your carpets often, especially wherever your pet likes to lounge around. Pay special attention to any crevices that are good hiding spots for fleas.

Diatomaceous earth can be used around your house to prevent fleas from spreading indoors. For example, you can treat carpets, furniture, and bedding with a light dusting of diatomaceous earth powder. 

what to do to get rid of fleas on dogs


Frequently Asked Questions

What are fleas and how do they affect dogs?

The insects are small, wingless insects that feed on the blood of animals. They can cause itching, skin rashes, and even transmit parasites to dogs if you handle fleas.

How can I tell if my dog has fleas?

If you notice your dog scratching excessively or see small black or brown dots on their skin or fur, they likely have the pests. You may also see flea dirt, which looks like small black specks, on your dog's bedding or in areas where they spend time.

Can other pets get fleas from my dog?

Yes, other pets in your household can also get fleas from an infested dog. It's important to treat all pets in the household to prevent the spread of the pests.

How do I get rid of fleas on my dog?

There are many treatment options available, including topical treatments, oral medications, and flea collars to kill fleas

How can I prevent my dog from getting fleas?

Regular grooming, vacuuming your home frequently, and using flea-preventative treatments can all help prevent the parasites from infesting your dog.

Can fleas be harmful to humans?

While biting insects prefer to feed on animals, they can also bite people and cause skin irritation. In rare cases, the biting insects can transmit diseases to humans, such as typhus or plague. It's important to take steps to prevent and eliminate flea infestations in your home to protect both your pets and your family.

Written by

Homes Alive Pets


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