Sand Fleas on Dogs

Fleas on dogs take two forms: the insect that commonly affects pets during warm weather (or throughout the year in temperate climates) and a crustacean called the sand flea. Sand fleas are about the size of a rice grain, and they have clear wings that have gray and black spots on them.

As their name suggests, sand fleas (sometimes called beach fleas, midges or no-see-ums) are commonly found in sandy areas, such as beaches or marshes. They are most active early in the morning and around dusk as they search for food near their beachfront homes. They do not routinely infest homes, so most pet owners encounter sand fleas when they vacation at the shore.

How Sand Fleas May Harm Dogs

Sand fleas are parasitic animals that feed on blood. Although they usually feed on aquatic animals, they also can burrow into a dog's skin and eat his flesh and blood. Along the way, they can cause skin problems and secondary infections. Sand fleas can also cause leishmaniasis, a serious illness that causes large skin lesions to form on the skin of infected people. Other signs of the disease include anemia, and liver and spleen damage.

Sand fleas on dogs require veterinary attention to be removed safely, since you may give your dog an infection if you try to remove the fleas yourself.

Sand Flea Bite Symptoms

Dogs that have been bitten by sand fleas can show a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Black dots under their skin (this is where the fleas are)
  • Fever
  • Mosquito-like bites
  • White lumps at the bite site
  • Scratching

Treating Sand Flea Bites

Treating sand flea bites is pretty straightforward. The fleas must be removed by your veterinarian to prevent further injury to your dog. After your vet removes the fleas, you'll need to keep his skin clean at the removal site to lessen the chance of infection. Clean your dog's skin with alcohol or another antiseptic recommended by your veterinarian until the wound heals completely.

Your dog may also benefit from an antihistamine cream to soothe his itchy skin, and pain relievers may help him feel better. It may take a week or more for the itchiness to completely leave your dog's skin, even with treatment.

How to Remove Sand Fleas from Your Home

If your dog has been treated for sand fleas, you should treat your home with pesticide as a precaution against reinfection. Sprinkle Seven Dust insecticide on your dog's bed, in your house and around your yard in the areas your dog frequents each day to eliminate stray sand fleas. Let it stand on your carpeting as directed, then vacuum up the dust. Also sprinkle the dust on your dog daily until he is completely free of sand fleas.

Vacuum the room in which your dog spends most of his time, paying special attention to cracks and crevices in which sand fleas can hide. Wash your dog's bedding in hot water after he's rid of the sand fleas to ensure that no survivors are hiding in his bedding.