About dog and cat fleas

Dog and puppy health care questions and answers, articles, videos and images

What can we do about fleas on pets?  
Questions and answers about cats and dogs and fleas
To get rid of fleas on pets you first must find out where the fleas are coming from!  Kill the fleas, eggs and larvae at their source, or make sure your dog avoids the flea infested area, and you have taken the first step in flea eradication.  Next, your veterinarian has topical and oral medications that are very safe and effective in killing fleas after they get on the dog or cat so they cannot breed and create more fleas.  Last, consult with a professional exterminator to eradicate the fleas, eggs and larvae from your household. 

Kitten and cat health care questions and answers, articles, videos and images

View all topics

Call your local veterinarian if your pet is sick or if you need medical advice about a specific pet.

View all topics

  Our dog seems to always bite at his tail and tries to lick and chew right where his tail meets his body.  He has little scabs and has shed his fur over his rump and it won't grow back.  
     We are treating for fleas and only see a flea once in a while so it can't be from fleas.  What is going on with him?
Answer:  fleas... what to do... how to eradicate
     Fleas are about the size of a comma on a typed page.  They are brown or copper colored and scoot quickly across the skin.  They have no wings so do not fly but they sure can jump!  Fleas need to be combated on several fronts... where they live, where they breed, and where they feed on their dog and cat victims.  

     Some dogs have FAD... Flea Allergy Dermatitis, an extreme allergic reaction to flea saliva that triggers severe itching from the bite of even a single flea!  If you see an "occasional" flea think of all the fleas you aren't seeing because these little critters can be very elusive.  And even one flea can set off an allergic reaction especially in the rear half of the dog's body... see the image on the right of a chronic, untreated flea bite allergic dermatitis.  This is known as FAD  (flea allergy dermatitis). 

Severe flea bite dermatitis in a dog
FAD  Flea Allergy Dermatitis

You can copy the info below and much more by going to the HANDOUTS page here

Fleas are tiny dark copper colored insects about the size of a pinhead.  flea dirt on a catThey don’t have wings; they can hop and sometimes seem to disappear as you attempt to grab them.  They move very fast on the skin and are perfectly designed to hide and move among the thousands of hairs on an animal’s body.
If your dog or cat has fleas your first chore is to determine from where they came.  Because fleas can reside and hide just about anywhere outdoors, especially where there are ground dwelling critters such as squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, cats and dogs.  Fleas can even survive and prosper in homes with tile floors!  They avoid bright light… and without adequate light we won’t be able to see them.  In homes with carpeting there can be flea infestation in rooms where the pet never goes because the fleas will attach to shoes and clothing and become well distributed indoors.
The image above-right displays pepper-like deposits of dried blood... this "flea dirt" is the feces of fleas that are on your pet.  If you see 'flea dirt" your pet HAS FLEAS!


The fleas you see on your dog or cat came from somewhere; you need to do detective work and figure out where the fleas are hiding.  Typical sources are:
….. A kennel, dog park or neighbor’s dogs if your dog and their dog play together.
…..Your yard.  Fleas can survive in great numbers in sandy areas, leaf piles, dense vegetation, in the grass under trees where squirrels, mice, rabbits spend time.
…..In your home, especially in carpets, in the furniture fabric, in bedding and blankets, in dusty areas of the basement.
…..Beneath your dog’s favorite bushes where he likes to do his daily duty in private.
…..Along the route you take on your dog’s daily walks.


Start with a flea free dog, then do an inspection immediately after a change of environment.  When you see fleas you’ll know they were picked up in the environment where the dog just spent time.  Look your dog over Flea under microscopethoroughly in a well lit area by spreading the fur apart and getting a peek at the skin surface.  Part the hair over the neck and back, check the tail and base of the tail, roll the dog over quickly and see if you discover fleas heading for cover.  Fleas prefer the rear half of the dog’s body especially over the rump.  If you are certain there are no fleas on your dog, let him outside in the yard.  As soon as he comes inside do another thorough inspection.  No fleas are a good sign… if fleas are seen, you know that at least one source of the fleas is your yard.
Another example:  Do a thorough inspection and if no fleas are seen, go on your usual walk and let the dog do all the usual nosing around.  When you get home immediately do another thorough inspection.  If you see some fleas, they were recently acquired along the walk.  (Pick a new route as you treat for fleas.)
Another example:  Before you go to bed do a thorough exam for fleas.  If none are found, recheck the dog as soon as you get up and before the dog goes outside to eliminate.  If you find fleas, they were acquired while the dog was sleeping and are present in the bedding!


Treat the entire house even if “the dog never goes upstairs”.  Treating only a few selected rooms will be unrewarding.  Fleas, flea eggs and flea larvae almost always are distributed throughout the house because adult fleas attach to people’s clothes and then jump off when they feel like it.  There are do it yourself home and yard flea treatments but if you take shortcuts or cut costs you’ll fail to solve the flea problem.  Best advice for in home flea eradication… call a professional exterminator.

There are a number of very effective flea control products that if the directions are followed are safe and effective as a part of the total effort to eliminate fleas.  There are no safe and effective flea repellants!  All pet anti-flea products only kill fleas after the flea is on the pet.  Most work before the flea gets a chance to bite but no product available today guarantees total immediate flea kill of all fleas as soon as they alight on the pet.


Your veterinarian will be able to provide you with the proper flea control products. Dog biting at fleas They are not all the same.  There are no flea preventatives applied to or on dogs and cats that are 100% effective nor 100% safe.  The preventatives available are much safer than what was available just 20 years ago.  Some are applied to the skin where the pesticide is dispersed within the skin's oil layer and a minimal amount gets into the dog or cat systemicly.  If you bathe your pet prior to administering these topical products they won't work... read the directions!

Injected or orally administered pesticides, once administered, cannot be nutralized or eliminated rapidly if the pet happens to have an adverse stress caused by the chemical.  You need to do your homework; you need to assess the benefit vs risk probabilities, and you MUST determine from where your pet acquires the fleas.  Remember this:  All today's antiflea and tick products only work after the parasite gets on the pet; they are not good repellants and do not work at a distance from the parasites. 

Even when you have properly assessed the environment and are certain your pet no longer has fleas, keep checking.  Then if you see a flea on your pet the odds are it was very recently acquired.  They may have been acquired from the neighbor's dog, from the leaves along the fenceline, from under that bush he usually hides when elminating on his morning walk, or from your own back yard.  If the preventative has been properly applied, these recently acquired fleas will die, fall off, and not be capable of reproducing and shedding hundreds of eggs in your livingroom carpet!

    My dog seems to have patches of hair missing and even looks like small round areas of fur have only a few hairs.  She isn't real itchy and shampooing isn't working.  She's about 6 months old and was like this when we got her.  Is this mange?
Answer:  mange... what is... demodex 
You seem to be describing a case of Demodex mites.  See the microscopic view below.  "Mange" isn't very specific for what kind of mite is causing the skin condition.  "Mange" mites called demodex can be contracted from the pup's mother even though she may show no signs of demodex (called an asymptomatic carrier).  Direct contact with another mite infested dog is possible, too.  
     Demodex, unlike sarcoptic mites, called scabies, usually does not cause itchiness or inflammation of the skin.  Most cases of demodex are diagnosed by a skin scraping and microscopic evaluation.  There are various therapies.  The doctor may do a skin fungal culture, too, to rule out "ringworm"... which is a confusing term because "ringworm" is caused by a fungus.
Always read and follow the product label instructions!
View all topics
Doctor's Notes:
   Read the instructions!
    The major reason  topical flea/tick preventative seems to fail is due to the owners bathing the pet just prior to applying the product.  

     Many products work from within the skin's oil layer; if you wash the oils off, then apply the medication, it will not work! 
Most topical products are not repellants, they kill fleas and ticks on contact with skin oils that contain the medication.

Links to parasite information...
   Dog Parasites    Cat Parasites

From training sessions to bird feed to dog and cat supplies to pocket pets...

ID tags and thousands of other pet supplies including pet foods!
Amazing Amazon
1-800-PetMeds Pet Supplies Free Shipping $49
Huge selection of prescription and non-prescription medications for your pets

Tell your friends about this site!

This site including all images are copyright of T J Dunn, DVM.
You may copy only the text of questions and answers for your own non-commercial use. 
Images can be requested or purchased through

View all topics