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5 Signs You (and Your Pet) Have Fleas and Don’t Know It

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5 Signs You (and Your Pet) Have Fleas and Don’t Know It

Fleas are most certainly annoying, but signs of their infestation are not always so obvious, especially if you are dealing with the problem for the first time. Here are few things veterinarians recommend watching out for – even if you don’t think fleas could possibly get into your home.


1. Abnormal Scratching, Licking and/or Biting

Fleas are opportunistic arthropods that seek out our pets’ blood as a food source. “Once fleas get on your pet by jumping or crawling, they typically set up their habitat in hard to reach (and see) places, like the head, neck, tail, armpits, or groin,” says Patrick Mahaney, VMD. “Licking, biting, or scratching at these places usually indicates the presence of nagging parasites like fleas.”


2. Unusual Red Patches of Skin

According to Dr. Mahaney, flea bite saliva can also be allergenic for some dogs and cats. These allergic reactions need not be exclusive to the bitten body part either. Flea bite hypersensitivity can cause rashes or lesions anywhere on the body.


3. Hair Loss

Hair loss, or alopecia, can be due to several things, including a reaction to flea bites. Dogs or cats may also pull out some of its own hair due to the continuous biting or licking of the flea bite areas. The pattern and severity of the alopecia is essential for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

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4. Pale Gums

Pale gums is a common sign of anemia and can be an indication your pet has a serious case of flea infestation, according to Keith Niesenbaum, DVM. This is because the amount of new red blood cells produced by your pet is not sufficient enough to combat the loss of blood fleas are extracting from the animal.


5. Flea “Dirt”

Have you noticed small black or reddish-brown specks on your pet’s body or in areas around your home? This could be flea “dirt,” which is actually flea feces composed of digested blood.


“One way to tell the difference between regular dirt and flea "dirt" is to wet any black specks that fall off the dog [or are found around your home] onto the white paper towel using regular water sprayer,” says Jennifer Kvamme, DVM. “If they turn a dark reddish-brown color, you are seeing the digested blood that the flea has passed through its body and excreted.”


“Another method you can use to search for flea dirt in the house is to wear white socks and walk through areas frequented by your dog,” says Dr. Kvamme. “Fleas and/or flea dirt may be picked up by the fibers of the socks and will stand out on the white background.”

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Seek Your Veterinarian’s Advice


If you can’t find any signs of actual fleas on your dog or in your living environment, or if you have done the full flea eradication treatment on your dog and home but your dog is still scratching excessively, it’s time to ask your veterinarian for advice. He or she will help you determine the cause of your dog’s discomfort and suggest treatment options such as flea preventatives.




Image: Monkey Crazy Jump / via Shutterstock


The ability to create a disease where a disease might not normally be found, usually due to an ill timed or unlikely weakness


A reaction to a certain pathogen that is out of the ordinary


The area between the abdomen and thighs; the inguinal area


A condition of the blood in which normal red blood cell counts or hemoglobin are lacking.

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5 Signs You (and Your Pet) Have Fleas and Don’t Know It Breed Characteristics

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5 Signs You (and Your Pet) Have Fleas and Don’t Know It Breed Characteristics

Adaptability stars Energy Level stars Shedding Level stars
Affection Level stars Grooming star Social Needs stars
Child Friendly stars Health Issues stars Stranger Friendly stars
Dog Friendly stars Intelligence stars
  1. Adaptability stars
  2. Affection Level stars
  3. Child Friendly stars
  4. Dog Friendly stars
  5. Energy Level stars
  6. Grooming star
  7. Health Issues stars
  8. Intelligence stars
  9. Shedding Level stars
  10. Social Needs stars
  11. Stranger Friendly stars
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