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Flea bites on dogs

Updated on November 4, 2013

Fleas are tiny insects. Flea bites on dogs can elicit an allergic response which results in rash development, intense scratching, and dry skin. In most cases, flea bites on dogs are not adversely harmful. But they can definitely be inconvenient.

Complete removal of flea infestation can be quite difficult. However, the plethora of flea treatments and flea removal options makes the process of flea elimination from your dog and home, a whole lot easier. The use of flea prevention products can also help completely avoid the issue.

A flea’s life cycle consists of the egg, pupa, larva, and the adult flea. Adult fleas can bite dogs as well as humans. However, their survival is dependent on whether or not they are attached to the dog’s skin. After laying eggs, the adult flea falls off from the prey. The eggs then go through the varied stages of development and become adult fleas. The process will continue until the final flea has been removed from the dog.

Symptoms of flea bites on dogs

  • Flea saliva released during bite on dogs reacts with the skin and causes allergic reactions and skin irritation, eventually resulting in formation of itchy, red bumps at the affected site.
  • The underside of the tail, the rump, the groin area, the belly, and areas under the legs are usually affected by flea bites on dogs. Scratching of the affected areas for relief from itching can exacerbate the symptoms and cause excessively dry skin and hair loss.
  • Most dogs only experience mild and temporary itchiness. Untreated instances of flea bites on dogs can however lead to infections, which then turn into crusty lesions.

The below listed signs and symptoms can help identify the occurrence of fleas on dogs:

  • Development of tiny, red bumps on the skin
  • Affected dogs may endlessly nib, lick, scratch, and bite the itchy parts of the body. The base of the tail is predominantly itchy.
  • Fleas have tapeworms in various stages of development. Dogs may swallow some fleas while biting the affected sites. This can cause a tapeworm infestation which can be diagnosed at a vet’s clinic.
  • Intense itchiness can often result in extreme distress and pain
  • The dog skin can break open due to excessive biting and scratching. The resultant wounds are then at increased risk to development of secondary infections by bacteria or other pathogens.
  • Hair fall that occurs in patches
  • Most cases of flea bites on dogs affect the rear portion and tail than the head or the front end of the body.
  • Extreme flea infestation can cause anemia or destruction of RBCs. Young and sick dogs are especially vulnerable to developing this symptom.

Hot spots on dog’s belly:Flea bites on dogs can result in intense itchiness. Dogs tend to scratch, bite, or nibble at these sites to ease the itching. Excessive scratching can cause the skin to tear and result in anopen wound. The belly skin is especially fragile and prone to such tearing. Bacteria and other parasites can then infect the wound. Such infected areas are referred to as hot spots. Dogs with heavy flea infestation may experience such hot spots, especially on the belly. Hot spots can migrate from one part of the body to another. Hence, they should be immediately treated with antibiotics.

Diagnosis of flea bites on dogs

As fleas are tiny creatures, they can easily hide in a dog’s fur and avoid detection. Pet owners can follow the below listed steps to verify if your dog has fleas:

  • Place a white paper on the floor and let the dog sit on it. Then brush the coat.
  • If tiny black and white sand-like granules fall onto the paper, then it means that the dog has fleas. The granules are actually flea feces and eggs.
  • Check the lower end of the body - such as the belly, tail base, and around the rump - for reddish bumps. If such bumps are present on the lower end and not on the upper side, then it indicates a flea infestation.

Treatment of flea bites on dogs

  • Skin inflammation and itching can be eased with a cool tapwater bath. Use anti-flea soap and shampoo during the bath to get rid of fleas.
  • Visit a vet. He/she will prescribe medications for reduction of inflammation and itching. Lesions can be treated with hydrocortisone creams or steroid lotions. Dogs that are hypersensitive to flea bites may be prescribed antihistamines and/or steroids. Secondary bacterial infections, if any, are treated with antibiotics.
  • After skin inflammation and itchiness have reduced substantially, the vet will suggest a flea collar that is suitable for your dog. Oral or topical medications may also be recommended for complete removal of fleas.
  • Pet owners can also use flea combs and flea powders to get rid of fleas and decrease the instances of flea bites on dogs
  • The home, backyard, and other areas also need to be treated with flea products. This will help prevent a recurrence.


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      Piyush 2 years ago

      Sandeep, That's not necessarily true. Because our dog gets relguar checkups and is on the preventative the vet wants her on, we were stumped when she started the incessant itching. And telling someone what they should have done doesn't help them solve the problem. If you were a vet that I used, I would fire you. People don't write in if they don't care about their pets.