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Can dogs feel fleas biting them?

How do I know if my dog or cat has fleas?

Left untreated, fleas can make your pet miserable, lead to infection and possibly cause more serious health issues. Our Huntersville vets explain how to spot the signs of flea infestations so that you can detect them early and keep your pet healthy and happy.

What are fleas?

Fleas are external parasites that depend upon a host animal for their survival. Once your dog or cat picks up a flea they become a comfortable host for these unwanted pests. Until the flea’s lifecycle is broken, they will continue to thrive and reproduce on your pet, and in your home.

What are the signs of flea infestations?

Any pet that is itching and scratching may be hosting fleas. In fact, your dog or cat may begin to itch and scratch as soon as a flea bites their skin. A single flea bite can cause pets to become agitated and scratch.

If you suspect that your pet has fleas, look for red pimples or bumps on your pet’s groin, belly, under the legs, on their behind, or at the base of their tail.

Some pets will develop patches of dry skin or experience hair-loss as a result of continually scratching at flea bites. If left untreated, lesions and infection can develop and possibly lead to more serious conditions.

How can I check my pet for fleas?

Adult fleas are fairly easy to see with the naked eye, particularly on light colored pets. Fleas are small and brown, reddish-brown or black.

Examine your pet for fleas whenever you are grooming them. Check your pet’s comb or brush frequently throughout grooming for signs of adult fleas. Look for adult fleas in thinly-haired areas like your pet’s abdomen by having your pet lay on their side.

When checking your pet for signs of fleas, be sure to keep an eye out for fleas feces (or flea dirt) as you groom your pet. Flea dirt looks similar to black pepper or tiny grains of sand that turn red when wet.

To help you spot flea dirt, have your pet stand on a white blanket or towel while you groom them. Use a flea comb, available from your veterinary clinic, and just run the comb along your pet’s underbelly and back and watch for black droppings fall from your pet, or trapped in the teeth of the comb.

What if I can’t find any fleas, but my pet is still scratching?

If you don’t see any signs of fleas but your pet is scratching or seems uncomfortable, it’s time for a trip to the vet. Your veterinarian can test your dog or cat for flea allergies as well as other common allergies which could be causing your pet discomfort.

If my cat or dog does have fleas, how do I get rid of them?

Safe and effective treatment options are available to prevent or eliminate fleas, including powders, sprays, topical liquids and shampoos. In severe cases, your vet can prescribe creams and antibiotics to help make your pet feel better and eliminate fleas.

To keep your dog or cat happy and healthy, and to prevent more serious issues from developing, treat flea infestations as quickly as possible, or use preventive medication to avoid infestations from starting.

Flea prevention is part of our annual Wellness Plans. Choose the Wellness Plan that’s right for your pet.

Signs Your Pet May Have Fleas | Huntersville Vet

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Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

Think: itchy! That is how your dog feels with flea allergy dermatitis. Flea allergy dermatitis is a very common allergy in dogs and is caused by flea bites; more specifically, flea spit (yes, spit). A flea’s saliva causes your dog to become very itchy and often puts them at risk for secondary skin infections. Often, the allergic reaction is mistaken for a rash.

The vile flea
It doesn’t take many fleas to cause your dog to go into a scratching and grooming frenzy. In fact, sometimes you won’t see ANY fleas at all because your pooch has removed them while grooming herself.

Any dog can become allergic to the bites of fleas, so it is important to learn how to care for your dog when he or she has fleas.


If your dog is plagued with flea allergies you may see the following:

  • Hair loss
  • Scratching of self, sometimes intensely
  • Chewing, biting at the tail, hind end, and legs (most often, the hind legs)
  • Open, oozing sores
  • Skin damage due to scratching/licking

While flea allergy dermatitis is a very common allergy in dogs, other disorders can cause similar symptoms. Your veterinary staff may recommend tests to rule out other common problems. They will take a thorough history of your pet’s behavior and symptoms and perform a thorough physical exam. Your veterinarian will most likely use a “flea comb” to look for the signs of fleas, including the fleas themselves and flea “dirt,” which is actually flea waste. If fleas are present, they may recommend controlling the flea problem as a first step to determining why your pooch is so itchy. If fleas are not apparent, they may recommend tests to rule out other causes, such as food allergies, mange, mites, or ear infections. Additionally, they will recommend treatment for any secondary issues that have resulted from your dog’s intense scratching, such as wounds or open sores.

There are two important components to treating your dog for flea allergies. The first is to control the fleas and prevent your furry friend from future bites. Your veterinarian can recommend an aggressive and, more important, safe flea control for your dog and her environment.

Your veterinarian will also treat any secondary infections as a result of the flea allergy. Treatment often includes antibiotics and medications to help control the itch. Getting the itch under control is key!

The best way to prevent flea allergy dermatitis is to prevent your dog from getting fleas! Talk to your veterinarian about a safe and effective flea preventive for your pet.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Flea Bites on Dogs: 7 Signs Your Dog Has Fleas

Flea Bites on Dogs: 7 Signs Your Dog Has Fleas

Most pet owners can relate, treating fleas on dogs is no walk in the park. But with the right tools and treatments, you can get your pets through it.

To avoid flea bites on dogs and prevent infection, you need to know what to look for. Find out what flea bites look like on dogs and how to treat them effectively.

Does my dog have a flea infestation

No matter if you have a dog or a cat (or both), getting rid of fleas in your home is hard. The most common way to find out what’s causing your dog to scratch is by looking in the right spots.

Common places to look for fleas

Fleas can be hard to see especially on dogs with thicker fur. Luckily, fleas have a few favorite hiding places.

The most common places to check for fleas are:

  • Behind their ears
  • Around their eyes
  • Around the neck
  • Near their hind legs
  • In their armpits or groin
  • Their stomach or abdomen
  • At the base of their tail

If you think your dog has fleas, use a flea comb to brush your dog’s fur backward to create a part and find evidence of fleas.

7 signs your dog has fleas

Adult fleas are only one aspect of an active flea problem. The rest of the flea life cycle can make it difficult to kill fleas instantly on dogs. To avoid a flea infestation, you should know what to look for.

What do flea bites look like on dogs

So you’re probably wondering, “how do I know if my dog has fleas?” If you’re unsure where to look, start with these 7 signs of fleas on dogs.

1. Scratching, biting, or licking.

You might suspect fleas on your dog before you even see them. Dogs with fleas often scratch at their ears, legs, and tails. If your dog is scratching, it’s time to check for flea bites.

2. Adult fleas.

If you part your pet’s fur and find what looks like small moving specks of black pepper on your dog’s skin, it’s likely fleas. Adult fleas are the easiest to see with a naked eye on your pet.

3. Flea dirt.

Flea dirt looks like small black specks on your dog’s skin. In reality, it’s actually tiny bits of digested blood — aka flea feces. To test it, place the flea dirt on a wet, white paper towel. If it turns reddish-brown, your dog, unfortunately, has fleas.

4. Eggs and larvae.

Though not as easy to see, you may also find flea eggs and larvae around your home. After feeding, fleas drop thousands of tiny, white eggs from your pet. Eggs can inhabit bedding, carpet, and furniture until they develop into larvae.

5. Hair loss.

One common side effect of flea bites is hair loss. Flea saliva is very irritating and causes pets to scratch or bite to relieve the itchiness. You may notice hair loss across your dog’s lower back, tail, and hind legs.

6. Anemia.

Anemia often looks like pale gums and low energy in pets, especially in puppies. This occurs because of a tremendous amount of blood loss. Fleas can consume up to 15x their body weight, so they can do a lot of damage to your pet’s health.

7. Scabs and infection.

When a flea bites your dog it’ll leave small, red bumps on your dog’s skin. Much smaller than mosquito or tick bites, flea bites can become inflamed and tear open the more your dog scratches. Constant scratching can lead to other types of infections.

4 common flea-borne diseases in dogs

Like other unwanted pests, fleas can carry disease. While tick-borne illnesses are often more dangerous, there are a few flea-borne diseases that could affect your pet.

1. Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD).

Flea allergy dermatitis is a common skin infection among dogs in the United States. This skin infection happens when pets are allergic to fleas and their saliva. The reaction occurs in two parts. The first is with a flea’s bite and the second happens when your pet scratches the bites to relieve the itchiness.

Common dog flea symptoms:

  • Skin irritation
  • Small bumps
  • Red patches
  • Hair loss

2. Bartonella (Cat-scratch disease).

Despite its name, cat-scratch disease can infect several types of animals. The name came from the association of bacteria that makes its way to an animal from an infected cat through a “cat scratch.”

Bartonella passes from fleas, who have consumed the bacteria, through their feces or flea dirt. The “dirt” then infects the scratched animal through abrasions in the skin.

Common dog flea symptoms:

  • Weight loss or inappetence
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Red eyes or pale gums
  • Swollen lymph nodes

3. Murine typhus.

Murine typhus is a common flea-borne illness carried by rat fleas. Murine typhus, like cat-scratch disease, transmits to other animals through flea feces. The bacteria enter the bloodstream through a cut or abrasion, often as a result of scratching the irritated skin.

Common dog flea symptoms:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Shaking
  • Bad breath

4. Tapeworms.

While it might not be common practice to check your dog’s stool, this is a great place to determine if your pet has fleas. When pets swallow fleas, through self-grooming or eating flea-infected mice, they can also contract tapeworms.

Common dog flea symptoms:

  • Weight loss
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Bloated belly
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

What to do if you can’t get rid of fleas

Feel like you’ve tried everything, but nothing seems to work? Getting rid of fleas takes time and patience. In fact, it can take up to three months to completely eliminate fleas.

Be patient and follow these recommendations to get rid of fleas for good:

  • Protect your pet with a preventive flea and tick treatment
  • Vacuum your carpet, floors, and furniture regularly
  • Wash your pet’s bedding, blankets, and toys often
  • Have your house treated with pet-friendly insecticide
  • Scan your dog in the common areas fleas hide
  • Know the signs and symptoms of fleas
  • Consult with your veterinarian if your pet gets infected

Complete flea control doesn’t happen overnight. But knowing the signs and symptoms of fleas on dogs is the first step in getting your pets the care they need.

Need help fighting fleas & ticks? We can help!

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