dog scratching an itch
dog scratching an itch

How to spot fleas on your pet

Wondering if our cats or dogs have fleas isn’t very nice, so we want to get to the bottom of what’s going on as fast as possible. Our pet experts have got your back with this guide to spotting fleas, including the common signs that your cat or dog is suffering from these little critters. Let’s get on the case.

Before getting started

It’s a good idea to make sure our pets are calm and relaxed before we get started with searching over them for fleas, so neither we nor our pets get stressed. After they’ve woken from a sleep or after a long walk could be the ideal time. Our pets could actually enjoy the experience if they feel like they’re being groomed!


Where to look and what to look for

  • Gently comb through their fur, focusing on areas where fleas are most likely to be found, such as around their neck, down their back and around their tail. 
  • If your pet has a thick or a long coat, part their fur using a comb and look around the roots of the hairs.  
  • If you see dark-coloured little insects darting around these parts of your pet, these are likely to be fleas. Fleas are tiny – around 2 mm in length.
  • See some little specks of dirt? This could be flea dirt – in other words, their poop.

How to check whether it’s normal dirt or flea dirt

It’s easy to mistake soil particles for flea droppings. To be sure what’s on your pet, grab a piece of wet tissue or kitchen paper and comb the pet’s hair and any specks of dirt onto it. If a reddish-brown halo forms around the specks of dirt, you’ll know these are flea droppings – which means your dog or cat definitely does have fleas and it’s time to use a flea treatment, if you haven’t already.


Other signs to look out for

  • If pets are feeling the discomfort fleas can cause, some of these signs might be showing themselves. And if there’s an infestation going on, we might notice ourselves feeling some irritating itching too.

  • Over-grooming
    Cats are usually fastidious about keeping clean, but they’ll be extra particular if they have fleas. And dogs can lick fleas off too; this is why fleas can also lead to tapeworm infestations, as pets can swallow a flea that has been infected with tapeworm eggs while they’re grooming.

  • Scratching
    Fleas aren’t the only reason our dogs and cats scratch themselves, but they are a common cause. Fleas can cause skin irritation, making our pets uncomfortable and itchy. The reaction will be even worse if the poor pet has flea allergy dermatitis – an allergy to flea bites.

  • Bald or sore patches
    Excessive grooming and scratching can damage our pets’ skin and fur. There could be red and irritated skin around their ears, short bristly patches of fur where part of the hair has been broken off, or even hair loss.

  • Flea bites on human family members
    Sometimes we only notice a flea infestation once we’ve been bitten ourselves. Flea bites can cause itchy red bumps on the skin, usually around our ankles or legs (if we’ve got a cuddly pet).

Did you spot signs of fleas?

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If pets have fleas, you need to get on top of the situation, fast. It’s important to regularly treat cats and dogs for fleas as any break in treatment gives fleas the chance to gain the upper hand. Use a flea treatment on your pets straight away if they’ve not been treated recently. Take a look at our tailored advice on how to get rid of fleas.

If people are being bitten too, this is a sign of a home infestation and there are additional steps you’ll need to take to sort the issue. It’s best to find out how to get rid of fleas in the house now, before the problem escalates any further.

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No signs of fleas?

That’s great, but it’s important to remember that fleas can be difficult to spot and some stages of the flea life cycle are even harder to see – such as flea eggs and larvae. So not noticing them isn’t a sure sign our pets are actually flea-free. That’s why regular flea treatment is important – it’s always easier to stop a problem arising than to solve it. And regular treatment will also save our pets from the itching, scratching and skin problems that flea infestations can cause.

So now we know how to spot the common signs of fleas – a technique that comes in handy for all pet parents. Seeing fleas can be a bit daunting, but by taking the right steps, you’ll be well on your way to solving the issue. Which is good news for pets, and bad news for fleas.

Get answers from the experts

Got a question about fleas, ticks or worms? We can help! Take a look at our FAQs or send us a message.

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