Fleas in Dogs

Fleas in dogs are probably one of the most common health issues and irritants to dogs.

Not only do they make your dog itchy, they can quickly invade your home making all pets and humans very unhappy!

The best thing you can do for your dog (and you) is to catch the fleas before they start.

While most flea bites aren’t dangerous, if left untreated, they can lead to secondary infections or even skin lesions if your dog is allergic to fleas.

Puppies can even develop anemia if they have an abundance of flea bites.

How To Know When Your Dog Has Fleas

Some of the most common symptoms if your dog has fleas are the following:

  • Excessive scratching
  • Excessive licking
  • Areas of hair loss
  • Presence of flea dirt
  • Weakness and pale mucous membranes in severe cases
  • Hair loss
  • Scabs and hot spots
  • Pale gums

Live fleas may or may not be seen.  Dogs with a high sensitivity to flea bites often remove the insects via scratching and licking before you or even your vet has a chance to see them.

That is why it’s important to see the signs.

Fleas are about the size of a grain of rice.   They jump on and off pets and have no wings. They can be observed by the veterinarian or owner.

Dogs often accidentally ingest fleas, which can cause infection with tapeworms.

If you can’t find any fleas, they can also be identified by their poop.

Allergic Reaction to Fleas

Some dogs can even have an allergic reaction to fleas.

If a dog has an increased sensitivity to the saliva of fleas, a flea bite can cause an allergic reaction.

This condition is called flea dermatitis and the symptoms are typically the following:

  • Intense itching
  • Hair loss
  • Red skin, scabs, and hot spots.

Flea allergy dermatitis can often lead to secondary skin infections.

Why Did My Dog Get Fleas?

There isn’t a specific reason why a dog will get fleas, but if a pet in your home has fleas that haven’t been treated, there is a strong likelihood that your dog and other pets can get fleas too.

If you live in a warm or humid climate, like Florida or Texas, fleas tend to be more rampant there and monthly flea prevention treatment is usually recommended.

All outdoor dogs are even more susceptible to fleas.

Flea Treatments

vet giving dog flea treatmentIf you think your dog has fleas, make sure to see your veterinarian to confirm that they are fleas and to recommend the best treatment.

Your dog’s itching could be indicative of some other ailment, like hot spots or ear mites.

Depending on your dog, your veterinarian can discuss the best treatment option to treat the fleas and also prevent the fleas from re-occurring.

Most of the common treatments are liquid or even topical treatments that are placed at the back of your dog’s neck.

There are many over-the-counter non-prescription flea preventative medications that are very effective and should be given to your dogs’ monthly.

Some dogs with increased susceptibility or higher than average exposure to fleas may require preventative care more often.

The typical cost of treating fleas ranges from $40 to $50 a month.

When treating fleas on any pet in your house, it is important that all are other pets including indoor and out cats.

Can Pet Insurance Help With Fleas?

While most pet insurance plans do not offer flea or parasite prevention on their basic policy.

However, if the dog insurance plans offer wellness and routine care coverage, there is generally an annual allowance to help pay for flea and other parasite prevention.

Pet insurance companies like Embrace and Pets Best offer wellness plans if this is of interest to you.


There are many ways you can prevent fleas and include the following:

  • Always keep your house clean and thoroughly vacuumed.
  • Watch for fleas by using a flea comb on your dog and washing your dog’s bedding weekly.
  • If you have a yard, you will need to treat it as well as your house if your dog developed fleas.
  • Use flea shampoos even if there aren’t any fleas present.  If they are too harsh, brewer’s yeast and garlic added to your dog’s food might also help repel fleas.
  • Apple cider vinegar added to your dog’s drinking water has been known to not only deter fleas but improve your dog’s skin and coat condition.

As always, the best way to treat fleas is to prevent them from occurring by having your dog on a monthly treatment at the first site or onset of fleas.

If you think that fleas are not the culprit and another dog health issue, our dog health glossary can give you some other ideas of what might have occurred.

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