Finding black flakes on your dog throughout their fur is never a pleasant surprise. It’s probably less enjoyable once you learn that it’s commonly referred to as “flea poop” or “flea dirt.” But what does that mean?
Flea poop is a combination of blood and feces that fleas leave behind. Its presence indicates that fleas are actively inhabiting your pet’s fur. Run your fingers through your dog’s fur (close to the skin) to view flea poop or use a flea comb. You can also give your dog a bath and if the water is a reddish color, the presence of flea dirt and fleas is confirmed.
Knowing whether you should immediately bring your dog to the vet and if flea dirt could be harmful to you or your family are legitimate questions. In this post, we will break down what you need to know about flea poop and what you should do once you discover it.
- What Does Flea Dirt Look Like?
- Common Places to Find Flea Poop
- Dog Bedding
- Other Signs That Your Dog Has Fleas
- How Can You Get Rid of Fleas and Flea Dirt From Your Dog?
- How To Get Rid Of Fleas In Your Dog’s Environment?
- What Happens If You Don’t Control the Fleas?
- When Do You Need to Consult a Vet?
- Related Questions
What Does Flea Dirt Look Like?
Flea dirt are small black specks (looks like pepper) located between your dog’s skin and their fur. They are visible to the human eye. Fleas leave behind droppings of blood and poop as they infest your dog.
Common Places to Find Flea Poop
Finding fleas can be the most challenging part of the process of removing them from your dog.
They’re super tiny and really know how to work their way deep into your pet’s coat.
If there’s a lot of them, then you might see them quickly moving around your dog’s fur, and depending on the color of your dog’s coat, they may be easier to see.
However, in many cases, you may locate the flea poop they leave behind before you actually find the fleas themselves.
The following are a few places you will most likely find flea poop on your dog.
On your dog’s body
An excellent place to start looking for fleas and flea dirt is your dog’s tail end.
This is because they sit on their bottoms outside, so it’s the easiest part of the body for fleas to get to first.
That being said, if there is an overrun of fleas, you will be able to find their poop everywhere, from the ears to the tail.
There are two ways to check your dog for flea dirt/fleas. Follow the video below.
Wherever your dog sleeps, you can be sure to find fleas and flea dirt in this area.
It may actually be easier for you to spot fleas in bedding because they aren’t entrenched in your dog’s skin and fur.
Anywhere Else the Dog Goes
Wherever your dog goes, so do the fleas and their dirt.
So if your dog sits upon any sofa or lies down on any of the rugs, then you’ll have to thoroughly clean them as well because they’ll have fleas on them too.
Other Signs That Your Dog Has Fleas
If any of the symptoms below present in addition to you noticing flea dirt on your dog, then you have a flea problem.
- Licking, scratching, biting, and itching
- Irritated and inflamed patches of skin (flea bite dermatitis happens when your dog is allergic to the flea bite)
- Red bites on dog’s skin
- Hair loss, especially near the tail.
To stop your dog itching and the flea bite dermatitis, consult your vet. Don’t assume because itching solutions, like calamine lotion, work on humans, that they will work on dogs.
How Can You Get Rid of Fleas and Flea Dirt From Your Dog?
When it comes to getting rid of flea poop and the fleas themselves as a once-off exercise, there are several things you can do.
However, keep in mind that you will need to prevent the fleas from returning on an ongoing basis. We share ways you can do this later in the article.
Use a flea comb
A simple flea comb traps fleas and flea dirt as the comb passes through the fur on your dog.
Have some hot soapy water on hand before you start combing. As fleas get trapped in the comb, immediately dunk the comb into the hot water. Don’t try and crush the fleas with the comb.
You can also buy an electric flea zapper which kills the fleas as they get trapped in the teeth of the comb.
Continue to comb your dog at least once a week until you are confident they are free of the flea infestation.
Give your dog a bath
It’s best to get a recommendation for a flea shampoo directly from your vet, especially if your dog has developed dermatitis on their skin as an allergic reaction to a flea bite.
Have a discussion with your vet about the solutions we recommend below. I find it’s more affordable for me to buy what the vet recommends online rather than buying from the vet practice. That’s why I research and write down a list of flea shampoos before I speak with my vet.
Adams Plus is the number 1 best seller on Amazon.com.
|Category||Brand||Product||Check latest price on Amazon.com|
|Best overall||Adams Plus||Flea and tick shampoo with precor||Check price|
|Best runner up||Hartz||UltraGuard rid flea and tick shampoo for dogs with oatmeal||Check price|
|Best for sensitive skin||Sentry||Flea and tick shampoo with oatmeal||Check price|
|Best for itch relief||Vet’s Best||Flea itch relief shampoo||Check price|
|Best organic shampoo||Richard’s Organics||Flea and tick shampoo (kills fleas, ticks and repels mosquitos)||Check price|
Fast-acting flea pills
You can also use a chemical treatment in the form of a pill that kills fleas relatively quickly and allows you to get some control over the situation. The medicine lasts about 24 hours, so no other fleas make your dog’s coat their new home. You will need to speak with your vet about these fast-acting pills.
Vets can also administer different topical medications and ointments to deal with and protect your dog from fleas, especially if your dog a flea dermatitis.
How To Get Rid Of Fleas In Your Dog’s Environment?
To address a flea infestation, you need to do more than kill the fleas on your dog. You need to go into their living environment to completely eliminate the fleas.
Wash dog bedding in hot water
Vacuum your home
Vacuum carpets and rugs. Pay special attention to around the edges of the rooms in your home, gasp between the skirting boards and walls and under all your furniture.
If you have hardwood floors, vacuum them too, especially in the gaps.
If your dog is allowed on the couch or chairs in your home, you will need to vacuum them too and don’t forget cushions.
Here’s our recommendations on the best vacuum cleaners for fleas and dogs.
|Type||Brand||Model||Check latest price on Amazon.com|
|Upright||Shark||Navigator Zero-M Upright||Check price and reviews|
|Stick||Dyson||V8 Animal Cordless||Check price and reviews|
|Canister||Ovente||Bagless Canister||Check price and reviews|
When you are vacuuming your home to remove fleas, do not make these mistakes.
If you have a vacuum cleaner with a bag, dispose of the bag outside your home and seal it so any fleas can’t escape.
If you have a bagless cleaner, again empty your vacuum cleaner into a bag outside your home, tie or seal the bag tight and dispose in your exterior bin.
Hot wash soft furnishings
Once you’re done vacuuming your soft furnishings, if they have removable covers, put them through a hot wash cycle in your washing machine.
Wash your bed linen
If your dog sleeps with you in bed, you need to wash your bed linen on a hot wash cycle. Vacuum your mattress as well!
Give your home a flea treatment
Here are some treatments that will kill flea eggs, flea larvae and adult fleas around your home, in your carpet and in your yard, all manufactured by Adams.
|Product Name||Benefits||Check latest price on Amazon.com|
|Adams Flea and Tick Home Spray||Starts killing in 5 minutes. Prevents infestation for up to 7 months||Check price and reviews|
|Adams Carpet Powder||Kills and prevents flea developments for up to 30 days||Check price and reviews|
|Adams Plus Flea and Tick Carpet Spray||Protects from fleas for up to 7 months after treatment||Check price and reviews|
|Adams Plus Yard Spray||Treats up to 5000 square feet and provides up to 4 weeks control||Check price and reviews|
These treatments are for surfaces inside and outside your home and are not to be administered on your dog.
What Happens If You Don’t Control the Fleas?
The first and most obvious consequence of not addressing fleas when you first notice them is your dog will scratch themselves. Fleas make your dog incredibly itchy. Through the scratching, their skin will become irritated, red, and start to bleed in most cases.
Fur loss is also a prevalent side effect of fleas not being dealt with. This is partly due to the fleas and partly due to the constant scratching from your pet.
Moving to more severe issues, your dog may start to experience skin allergies.
If your dog experiences a high rate of blood loss through the fleas biting them, they can develop flea bite anemia.
And finally, the most severe issue is when these parasites transmit diseases.
- Fleas can give your dog a tapeworm infection if your dog ingests a flea with tapeworm eggs inside.
- Murine Typhus is another disease that can quickly form in your dog if the flea has been in contact with a rat.
When Do You Need to Consult a Vet?
It’s never a bad idea to see your vet regarding fleas and parasites entering your dog’s personal space.
Vets can see things you can’t and know what to look for when flea detection is more complicated.
However, there are some cases where a vet visit is more of a requirement than an option.
1. When you can’t find the fleas
Sometimes finding fleas can be difficult for pet owners.
They aren’t always detectable as they really bury themselves deep into your dogs’ skin and fur.
Most of the time, fleas may be hard to track down, but their droppings are not.
If your dog is always itching and you ran both a comb and bath test, it’s time to consult a vet.
A vet has the tools to run tests for skin allergies. This is a common side effect from fleas, and the skin test is not something you can do at home. Even if the problem may not be fleas, your vet can find out what is making your dog so uncomfortable.
2. You notice signs of rashes, hair loss, or irritation
It is common for dog owners not to see their dogs scratching to the point that rashes, hair loss, and irritation develop. But, should you notice any of these symptoms and/or bleeding, it’s time to bring your dog to the vet.
While you may be able to get the fleas off quickly with a bath, you won’t be able to heal the infected areas adequately.
Your dog will most likely need a cone to stop them from biting the site and prevent them from licking any ointment or medication needed to be put on that area.
3. There is a consistent flea problem
If your dog is continuously getting fleas, a few things need to change to protect them.
Your first stop should be with a vet because they can provide flea and bug repellent on their coat. It would be a win for both you and your dog, so they no longer have to suffer, and you don’t have to pay any more vet bills than necessary.
4. Stop the fleas from coming back
Your vet can advise you on the best medication to prevent the fleas from coming back. This medication can kill flea eggs, larvae, and adult fleas on your dog. But before you have this conversation with your vet, read our comprehensive guide to the best flea, heartworm, and tick solutions.
Does flea dirt mean an infestation of fleas?
Yes. The presence of flea dirt does indicate your dog has a flea problem.
How long does a flea infestation last?
It could take 3 to 4 months to eliminate a flea infestation from your dog and home.
This is because that is the length of time it takes for fleas to go through their life cycle from an egg to a full-grown adult flea.
How do I stop the fleas from coming back?
As an ongoing treatment, we recommend Frontline Plus for dogs as a preventative measure. This treatment kills fleas during their lifecycle: flea eggs, flea larvae and adult fleas.
Is flea poop harmful to humans?
At the first sign of flea poop, you may be hesitant to touch the areas where they have taken over on your pet or where they sleep. This is a normal response, as most people are unsure whether there is a risk of diseases being transmitted from flea poop.
The actual risk of transmitting disease from flea dirt to humans is relatively low. You would either need to ingest it or possibly have an open wound that would come into contact with the flea droppings to contract any form of a disease.
Having said that, it is always a pretty good idea to handle this waste with care by using gloves to remove it from your dog or, at the very least, thoroughly washing your hands afterward.
It’s also worth mentioning that although your dog’s fleas themselves will rarely cause any harm to you, without being addressed, they can eventually hurt your dog.
It’s always a great idea to get out ahead of these things by regularly grooming your dog and giving them baths. If you noticed any sign of excessive itching, brown water during baths (from flea dirt), or fleas emerging while combing for them, then the safest thing is to try to remove them as quickly as possible and schedule a vet appointment.