What do fleas look like and how do I spot them?

Fleas are more than just a nuisance for your dog. Fleas can cause chronic skin disease and even transmit infectious or parasitic diseases. Some of these can be transmitted to humans too!

How to spot Flea
How to spot Flea

How to spot fleas on your dog?

Spotting fleas isn’t always easy – they are small and fast, and some dogs can show signs of severe itchiness and irritation when only a few fleas are present. The other thing to consider is that the adult fleas you see on your dog are only part of the problem. You may be surprised to learn that adult fleas (the ones you see) make up only about 5% of the total population. The remaining 95% (eggs, larvae and pupae) are found in carpets and bedding - in fact anywhere in your house! 

Adult female fleas can start laying eggs within 24 hours of infesting your dog, and eventually can produce up to 50 eggs per day. Eggs can scatter, falling off your dog wherever it moves, spreading the flea infestation throughout your home. Flea larvae then hatch from the eggs, hiding in dark places, deep in carpet, bedding or in cracks in the flooring where they feed on flea dirt and develop into pupae. The flea lifecycle is completed when adult fleas emerge from pupae, ready to jump onto a passing dog.

Fleas on dogs… where to start looking?

Fleas can be found anywhere on your dog and can be difficult to detect as they move so quickly!

Check your dog’s skin carefully for signs of scratching or redness, as these can be signs of fleas. The skin on the belly, groin, or base of the tail is frequently affected, and may appear red and bumpy.

But what do fleas actually look like? Unfortunately, fleas on dogs are not always easy to spot. Fleas are small, flat-bodied, and dark brown in colour.

Often it is easier to spot the flea droppings, or “flea dirt”, that they leave behind when feeding rather than the fleas themselves. If the flea dirt is collected and placed on a moist tissue, it will stain the tissue red. This is a great way to tell the difference between flea dirt, and the ordinary dirt that dogs might collect in the garden!