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How to Check Your Dog for Fleas

4 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of Dog Care for a Healthy Pet

Fleas are parasitic pests that can make your dog’s life miserable with the constant need to scratch itchy flea bites, which can then lead to inflammation and infection. Preventing an infestation or getting rid of these tiny —less than 1/8-inch long — dark brown terrors takes diligence and attention to detail.

For dog lovers in warm climates, flea control requires constant vigilance. Fleas don’t survive freezing temperatures, however, so in colder climes, the winter weather naturally decreases the flea population every year. In these areas, fleas are most abundant during the fall, when temperatures are dropping and fleas are moving indoors to ride out the winter months.

To search for fleas, have your dog lie down, separate the hairs around the base of her tail (a favorite flea hangout), along the backs of her legs, on her stomach, and around her neck and ears.

If you see tiny black or brown irregular pieces of dirt, it may be flea dirt, which consists of dried blood and flea excrement. To test whether it’s flea dirt or regular old yard dirt, smear some on a damp paper towel. If the smear is reddish brown, like dried blood, you can be fairly certain it came from fleas.

An easy way to detect fleas or flea dirt is to have your dog lie on a clean white sheet while you brush her or blow her hair with a dryer. Some fleas will jump off the dog and onto the sheet, where you can easily see them. Even if you don’t see the fleas themselves, you can easily spot flea dirt on the white sheet.

You can use a white sheet and a blow dryer to check your dog for fleas.
You can use a white sheet and a blow dryer to check your dog for fleas.

You don’t have to see a live flea in order for your dog and her living area to be infested. If you want living proof, however, sort through your dog’s hairs some more. Fleas are very fast and jump from one place to another, so you may only get a glimpse.

If you see even one flea on your dog, you can be certain there are at least a hundred more in one form or another (eggs, larvae, or adults) on your dog, in the carpet, and wherever your dog sleeps. It’s time to go into flea attack mode!

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