Having a dog in your family is largely a joyful experience, but fleas can put a damper on the good times. Most dogs, unless they spend their days cloistered indoors, are likely to have fleas at least once in their lifetime. In fact, there many ways you can tell if your dog has fleas. The one exception is for dogs living in colder climates. If winter temperatures get lower than 35°C in excess of 40 hours per one month period, flea activity drops dramatically. This is a welcome respite for pet parents and dogs. However, rising temperatures in the spring inevitably stimulate flea activity. This makes it imperative for you to find out how to tell if your dog has fleas. Being able to diagnose this issue is an important first step toward better quality of life for you and your dog.
Fleas are troublesome parasites that feed on your dog’s blood. Most dogs pick them up while exploring in the great outdoors. Accordingly, if your pup spends a great deal of time on hiking trails or sniffing around in the backyard, his chances of picking up fleas are definitely enhanced. Dogs may also pick up fleas from being around other dogs or even cats.
Read on to discover ways you can tell if your dog has fleas.
1. Excessive Scratching and Chewing
Most pet parents begin to suspect that their dog has fleas when they note changes in their dog’s behavior. Dogs that are infested with fleas often scratch and chew on themselves a lot. This is your dog’s attempt to rid himself of this annoying parasite. As fleas feed on your dog’s blood, it causes a great deal of skin irritation. Your dog wants to get rid of the flea and soothe the itching caused by the bites. The problems are only multiplied for dogs that are allergic to a certain protein that is present in flea saliva. This allergy leads to intense scratching that can cause redness, bleeding and even hair loss. Flea bites can cause dogs to seem anxious or agitated too, so if your pup is normally calm but seems to have lost his mellow mood, fleas may be to blame.
2. Pimples and Bumps
Another sign of a possible flea infestation are pimples or bumps. These may be most visible on the dog’s groin or belly, where hair tends to be sparse. However, these bumps often show up on the rump or at the base of the tail. Fleas like to congregate in these areas because they are harder for the dog to reach. The presence of these blemishes may indicate a flea infestation or other irritation that may need to be checked out by a vet or groomer.
3. Look for Fleas
One of the best ways to figure out whether or not your dog has fleas is to conduct a visual inspection. Sometimes, you can part your dog’s hair and spot a small, brown insect. Fleas move and jump really quickly, so a visual inspection isn’t always the easiest method for detecting these parasites. If you lay your dog on her back so you can look at her belly and groin, this may be your best opportunity to spot a pest.
4. Use a Comb
A flea comb or other comb with tightly packed teeth is a reliable method for finding fleas. You may actually comb fleas out of your dog’s hair, so be ready. Keep a bowl or dish of soapy water at hand to drop the fleas into. Alternatively, you can squash the pests. Just keep in mind that fleas do not squash easily so you’ll have to use some pretty serious force. Even if you don’t comb any fleas out of your dog’s hair, be on the lookout for flea feces, which is often called flea dirt. These small, black specks look like pepper and often cling to the comb’s teeth. Drop the specks onto a damp paper towel to see if they dissolve into a red speck. That red coloring is your dog’s blood after being processed through the flea’s system. This is a certain method for detecting whether your dog’s discomfort is due to fleas or another issue.
5. Try the Towel Test
Place your dog on a white towel. Paper towels work just fine for this test. Brush your dog with a regular grooming tool and then look for black specks or fleas that may have fallen onto the white towel. Alternatively, you can vigorously rub your dog’s coat to loosen any flea dirt or parasites, causing them to fall onto the towel.
6. Bathe Your Dog
Wash your dog in the bathtub. Remove him from the tub and dry him, but don’t drain the water just yet. Take a look at the water to see if there are any fleas or black spots in it. If so, then your dog probably has fleas. While the bath may have gotten rid of some of them, it probably did not eradicate the problem so further steps may be necessary.
Regular visits to the groomer offer your dog wonderful protection against fleas and other parasites. Your dog groomer provides thorough combing and bathing to get rid of pests that might make life uncomfortable for your favorite pet. Additionally, groomers can apply flea prevention medicines that break the flea life cycle. Getting to the dog groomer on a regular basis is one of the easiest ways you can improve your dog’s quality of life.
You can help at home by washing your dog’s bedding, pillows and blankets at least once a month. Fleas, and their cocoons and larvae can hide in all of these items, continually making life miserable for your pooch. A trip through the family washing machine is a tried-and-true method of breaking the cycle. Routine vacuuming is also helpful. Carpets are notorious for hiding fleas and larvae, so the more you vacuum, the more likely you are to put an end to the problem. Try putting a flea collar into your vacuum bag to kill any fleas that make it that far.
Through the efforts of groomers, vets and pet parents, dogs can get relief from flea infestations. If you can tell the ways you can tell if your dog has fleas, you’ll be able to get him the help he needs as quickly as possible.