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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Fleas View In Dogs




Condition Overview

The ordinary cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is the leading cause of itching and scratching in dogs and cats. The adult flea is a small dark brown insect about 2.5 millimeters in size, with flat sides to aid in their movement through pet hair and can be seen with the naked eye.


Itching is most pronounced on your dog's back, in the groin, and around the tail and hind-quarters.

Some dogs develop a marked hypersensitivity to the saliva of fleas and experience intense itching which results in skin abrasions, hair loss, and secondary pyoderma. Fleas are also an intermediate host for tapeworms.


Fleas survive by jumping onto a host animal, cutting open their skin, and feeding on the blood. In many dogs, the bites cause only a mild itch, but a heavy infestation in a puppy or small dog can cause severe anemia (due to blood loss) and even death.


Flea infestation can be diagnosed by finding fleas on the dog or by seeing black-and-white, salt-and-pepper like grain in the coat. These particles are flea feces (black) and flea eggs (white). Fecal material is made up of digested blood. When brushed into a wet paper, it turns a reddish brown.

Run a fine tooth flea comb through the hair on your dog's back, in the groin, and around the tail and hind-quarters to look for fleas.


Flea infestations can be effectively controlled and possibly eliminated through the use of a high quality - low toxicity flea shampoo. Look for top quality brands such as Bio-Groom and Tropiclean when shopping for flea shampoo. Off brands tend to contain low quality chemicals that can cause high residual levels of toxicity in the dogs skin. As you bathe the dog you will see fleas falling off in the tub, this is normal.

Avoid the use of flea collars as they have a reputation of being ineffective at best.

In the house spray carpets, dog beds, baseboards, cracks, and crevices with an insect growth regulator or flea control product with a quick kill ingredient designed for indoor use. Be sure to closely follow the directions to maximize safety.

In the yard, use a spray designed for outdoor use that contains an insect growth regulator. An alternative method is to use nematodes - microscopic worms that prey on the larvae and pupae of many insects including fleas. Clear the yard of leaves and other debris.


Never mix flea control products. Using a systemic product such as Program or Sentinel and then spraying your dog with topical preventative could possibly be deadly.

After bathing, wait 24 hours before applying (or manufacturers suggested period) any topical flea preventative such as Frontline, Frontline Plus, Advantage, Advantix, or Revolution. Look-alike products from pet supply stores are less expensive, but they are not always as safe or effective as these brand name products. Please visit the manufacturers websites to find the benefits and capabilities of each individual product.

Topical flea control is not interchangeable between animals. Never use flea control made for dogs on cats, ect.


Please contact your veterinarian or a professional pet grooming facility to assist you in exterminating the flea infestation.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The Howell Book Of Dogs

Publisher: Wiley Publishing Inc, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Author: Liz Palika

Dog Bible

Publisher: BowTie Press, 2005

Website: http://www.bowtiepress.com/bowtie/

Authors: Kristin Meuh-Roe, Jarelle S. Stein

Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats

Publisher: Bantam Dell Publishing, 1996

Website: http://www.randomhouse.com/bantamdell/

Authors: Matthew Hoffman, Laura Catalano, Maryanne Dell

The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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