Dog BehaviorDog Health & SafetyDogs in General

Can I tell if my dog has fleas? There are 2 obvious signs.

Dog Scratching at Fleas

Most dogs itch and scratch, and it’s quite a natural thing to do. Especially if they are out and about a lot, foraging around in bushes and long grass, or even rolling in mud and dirt. It’s all part and parcel of being a dog. But what happens when it goes one step further, to a full on flea infestation? I think you can tell if your dog has fleas, and in two main ways.

Dog Scratching at Fleas


If your dog has fleas, they will almost be driven insane with the constant itching. The frequency will definitely move up a few notches! It won’t be ordinary doggy scratching after some form of adventure. It will be a frantic and ongoing scratching, and if the fleas aren’t treated, this will almost always become a constant.

Would you believe that your dog can sometimes do themselves harm from this type of scratching. It can become so desperate that they can draw blood. This is particularly true for areas that they can reach easily with their feet, which of course have claws on the ends!

For areas that can’t easily be reached, you are likely to see a desire to rub certain parts of the body on anything that will give resistance – an armchair, a wall, or the carpet – among other things. Why is this bad?

Well, for starters, if the itch is strong enough they can rub until a bald patch develops. secondly, the fleas can be transferred to other surfaces, especially soft furnishings, where they will lie in wait for another victim – and it could be you!



Most fleas are not microscopic, which means you might be able to see them. They are pretty small, and black, so if you have a pale-coated dog you have a better chance. With darker fur they may well blend in to your dog’s coat and be a lot harder to see. However, if you spread their fur with two fingers close to the skin, you will likely be able to see them as well.

Multiple Flea Bites on a Human
Copyrighted free use,

Growing up on a farm, my brother, sister and I had many “flea episodes” ourselves. Not just because of dogs, but we also had cats and many other types of animals floating around. Fleas aren’t really too fussy about where they live and whose blood they are sucking, and will happily jump from host to host. I have memories of my mother noticing the tell-tale scratching we were doing, and she would make us strip our clothes. We were young at the time, and had white vests on – and I remember Mom turning them inside out and showing us the little black dot that was giving us such grief!

Anyway, the point I’m making is if they move onto you, or anyone in your family, you will soon know about it! And, if your torso looks like the above picture, imaging how your dog’s skin might feel – is it any wonder the itching is driving them crazy!



By CDC/Janice Haney Carr [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Well, close up (really close up) this is what they look like. Eew, gross!

They are a form of parasitic insect, and during the adult part of their life cycle, they feed on the blood of their host by biting right through the skin.

Life Cycle of a Flea
Courtesy of

The entire life cycle can last between 12 and 22 days, from the egg stage to becoming an adult flea. They thrive when temperature and humidity levels are just right, and the scary thing is if your dog has adult fleas, this is only about 5% of the infestation. The remaining 95% is lying around your home as eggs or larvae. If that isn’t enough to gross you out, I don’t know what is!

Basically if your dog has fleas, so does your home – so it’s really important to treat everything all at once, to ensure you get on top of the entire infestation.

Yep, you’ve got it – you have to treat your dog AND the environment you and your dog are living in. i.e. your house.



There are many different types of treatments available for your dog (and remember to treat any other mammals also living in the house). They range from liquid treatments that you can spot on, to preventative collars that release chemicals.

Just a word of warning, not all treatments suit all dogs. The best process is to contact your vet and ask them what they advice, and then if you can buy it over the counter, great. I’m sure most vets/vet practices would be happy to give advice over the phone for this type of thing, to save you having to take your dog in. Especially since they may infect other dogs they come into contact while there!

We tried one of the collars as a preventative on our German Shepherd, and it soon came off again. The chemicals affected his behavior as well, and he became really hyper. We realized very quickly that this treatment wasn’t suited to him and we had to go for the liquid spot-on treatment instead.

As for the house, their are sprays that are effectively an insecticide treatment that can be used to get rid of fleas, whatever stage of the cycle they are at. But, insecticides can be full of chemicals that you maybe don’t want floating around in the air, so I recommend this one, which is natural –



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  • Vet's Best Flea & Tick Home SprayKills all fleas and ticks on contact, AND repels mosquitoes
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Have you had experience of fleas before? Either yourself or your pets? Feel free to share your own experiences below, and if you have any products you would like to recommend, please get in touch at I would love to hear from you!

2 thoughts on “Can I tell if my dog has fleas? There are 2 obvious signs.

  1. Hi Mara, very informative article. I don’t have dogs any more but have a cat and she doesn’t have fleas bit gets mites in her ears. I have the medication in the form of a solution in a squeeze bottle but it’s very hard to get the solution into her ears. I have to put the solution on my fingers and then rub into her ears. It does work but she doesn’t want to talk to me for a while after I do that to her. But she always comes back for a scratch when she has forgotten about it.

    Great website and will forward onto my mother in law as she has 2 small dogs. She will like reading it for sure.

    Thanks John

    1. Hi John and thanks for leaving a comment here. It’s hard when we have to treat any pets with medication they don’t like. It was always the worming tablets our dog hated the most – I don’t know how, but he always spat them out and we would have to hold his muzzle up and gently stroke his throat to get them down. Same as your cat – he didn’t speak to us immediately afterwards, but eventually all is forgiven. really appreciate you forwarding on my website to your mother in law and I hope she finds it useful.

      All the best to you and your cat, Mara.

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