Reviewed by Amy Flowers on May 22, 2014

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Bonnie J. Willhite, DVM: <p begin="00:00:00.00" dur="00:00:06.00">In all my years of practice, I’m amazed at how hard it is still today to find fleas.</p> <p begin="00:00:06.00" dur="00:00:12.00">A flea is an external parasite of dogs and cats. Fleas look like dark little sesame seeds, crawling around on your pet’s skin. But they can move very fast, so you’ve got to be stealthy to keep up with them.</p> <p begin="00:00:18.00" dur="00:00:12.00">When a flea infests your dog, it will jump on them, take a blood meal, which means bite, suck their blood, and during that process will produce thousands and thousands of eggs as well.</p> <p begin="00:00:30.00" dur="00:00:11.00">You will not see the flea bites, but you will see evidence of the bites. So you’ll see flea dirt, which is the product of a flea ingesting your pet’s blood and then passing it as feces.</p> <p begin="00:00:41.00" dur="00:00:07.00">And in addition to that, you’re going to see redness and the inflammatory reaction that happens because of those bites.</p> <p begin="00:00:48.00" dur="00:00:09.00"> So, sometimes there’s confusion when looking at your pet, if there’s just debris or dirt on their skin from playing and rolling in the yard. Or is that really flea dirt.</p> <p begin="00:00:57.00" dur="00:00:06.00">Well, the great test that you can do, is take that material and put it on a white paper towel and add water.</p> <p begin="00:01:03.00" dur="00:00:09.00">When you do that, it’ll shriek red if it’s flea dirt, because that is a by-product of the digestion of your pet’s blood.</p> <p begin="00:01:12.00" dur="00:00:10.00">The best way to check for fleas on your pet, is to look behind the ears and around the area where the tail attaches to their body, known as the tail-head area.</p> <p begin="00:01:22.00" dur="00:00:06.00">And what you want to do, is to take their fur and run against the grain of the fur with your fingers and lift it up on end.</p> <p begin="00:01:28.00" dur="00:00:08.00">And that way, you can see any fleas or flea droppings, known as flea dirt, that is sitting at the base of the hair shafts.</p> <p begin="00:01:36.00" dur="00:00:10.00">But, definitely focus on the areas where the hair is thin. The cowlicks behind the ears, and where the hair drops away at the base of the tail. They really like those areas.</p> <p begin="00:01:47.00" dur="00:00:15.00">Other indicators that you can look for, for a flea infestation of your pet, is examining their bed, looking for evidence of flea dirt, or flea droppings in their bed. And sometimes you will see visible flea eggs on a dark material.</p> <p begin="00:02:02.00" dur="00:00:16.00">So if the pet bed is dark, you’ll see scattered little white dander type of material than can be flea eggs.
One of the most common areas that fleas like to hide out in the environment is in cool, dark, moist, shaded areas. Like sheds and wooded areas.</p>
<p begin="00:02:18.00" dur="00:00:05.00">So, you’ve just got to be careful. Because as soon as your pet goes back there, they’re going to be waiting to hop on.</p> <p begin="00:02:23.00" dur="00:00:12.00">They can manifest in so many different ways for our pets. Sometimes you just see a lick or chew at the belly. Sometimes they’re nibbling like crazy at the tail head. And sometimes there’s just two fat fleas causing mayhem.</p> <p begin="00:02:35.00" dur="00:00:00.00">So you really have to hunt hard to look for the signs of fleas. And also, look at the pattern of their itch and why they’re uncomfortable to kind of put the whole picture together.</p>