Identifying Flea Bites on Dogs

Identifying flea bites on dogs can be a hazardous task for pet owners. While fleas prefer to hop from dog to dog for a blood meal when they want to feed, fleas will also bite humans if you get too close. A flea bite on a human looks like a tiny harmless bump, but it will cause an annoying itch until it heals. For this reason, when checking your pet for fleas, it’s best to wear disposable gloves, a hat, and long sleeves.


There are more than 2,000 known species and sub-species of fleas around the world. However, only one species accounts for nearly all fleas found on dogs and cats in the U.S. This flea is known as the cat flea. The cat flea bite causes an exhausting itch-scratch cycle in dogs. What’s worse is, a dog that is especially sensitive to flea saliva may have a fit and begin to scratch and bite the itchy area so intensely he might end up injuring himself. 

Fortunately, fleas do not actually live on dogs, they just feed there. Nevertheless, identifying flea bites on dogs is a priority, especially if you want to save your dog from endless itching, biting, and scratching. In addition, fleas are the main cause of tapeworm in dogs and cats. Some animals actually eat 50-90 percent of the fleas on their body, which increases the risk of contracting tapeworm.

Identifying Flea Bites on Dogs

The best way to identify flea bites on dogs is to coax your dog onto a white piece of paper or a white towel. A treat or two might help reel him in and keep him calm. Once the dog is in position and calm, run a comb or brush through his coat, just above the tail. If you notice any black, peppery-like flecks on the white paper or towel, wet them a bit to see if they turn red. If they do, you have just discovered flea dirt. Flea dirt is the blood the flea excretes after feasting on your dog.

Flea Control

After identifying flea bites on your dog, there several routes to take. You can visit your veterinarian for prescription grade treatments such as topical lotions or pills. Just a few effective flea control products include Program, Frontline and Advantage.

Program is available in pill form and it contains a chemical called lufenuron. Lufenuron sterilizes female fleas, which prevents eggs from hatching. This breaks the flea life cycle within two months of use. Frontline contains a chemical called fipronil, which is absorbed into the skin’s oil-producing glands. The chemical works by collecting in the glands and wicking back out with the coat. It is applied between the dog’s shoulder blades and it kills fleas up to three months.

Frontline is another topical treatment that must be applied to the skin over the dog’s back. The active ingredient (imidacloprid) kills adult fleas on contact. To keep fleas from coming back, you must treat your entire home, your car, doghouse, kennel, and surrounding outdoor areas if possible. For long-term relief, consider hiring an exterminator.