Flea Bites on Dogs: Cause, Symptom and Treatment

icon August 5, 2023

The presence of fleas can turn that joy into discomfort and distress for our beloved pets. Flea bites on dogs are a common issue faced by dog owners, but with proper knowledge and timely action, it is possible to protect our canine companions from these pesky parasites. To avoid flea bites on your dog and prevent infection, you need to know what to look for. Learn the symptoms of flea bites on dogs and how to treat them effectively.

Causes of Flea Bites on Dogs

Fleas are tiny, wingless insects that feed on the blood of mammals, including dogs. The most common species of fleas affecting dogs is the Ctenocephalides felis, also known as the cat flea. Contrary to its name, cat fleas can infest both cats and dogs.

Flea infestations can occur due to various reasons, such as:

  • Contact with Infested Animals
  • Dogs that spend time in places like parks, gardens, and wooded areas.
  • Transmission from Humans

What Do Flea Bites Look Like On Dogs?

Flea bites on dogs typically appear as 

  • Scratching and Itching
  • Small, red, itchy bumps 
  • Raised welts on the skin
  • Flea Dirt

They can be clustered together in groups, often found around the dog's abdomen, groin area, base of the tail, and on the back legs. In some cases, you may also see evidence of flea dirt, which is the feces of fleas that looks like tiny black specks in the fur. These black specks may turn reddish-brown when moistened.

It's important to note that dogs may have varying degrees of sensitivity to flea bites. Some dogs may have a mild reaction with only a few bumps, while others may develop a more severe allergic reaction known as flea allergy dermatitis, which can lead to intense itching, hair loss, and skin inflammation.

How Long Do Flea Bites Last on Dogs?

 In general, flea bites on dogs can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

Flea bites typically cause itching and discomfort for the dog. Some dogs may be more sensitive to flea saliva, leading to more intense itching and potential skin reactions. If the infestation is severe or not adequately treated, the dog may experience continuous biting and scratching, leading to potential skin infections and secondary issues. That's why timely treatment and prevention are important.

Treatment Of Flea Bites on Dogs

Treating and preventing flea bites on dogs is essential to keep them comfortable and healthy. Flea bites can cause itching, irritation, and in some cases, lead to more severe skin conditions or transmit diseases.

There are several effective flea treatments available, including topical spot-on treatments, oral medications, and flea collars.

Topical spot-on treatments: These are usually applied directly to the pet's skin, typically between the shoulder blades or along the back. They work by spreading through the skin's oils and killing fleas on contact. Some spot-on treatments also have the added benefit of repelling and killing ticks. (e.g. fipronil, abamectin b1, ivermectin)

Puainta® Fipronil Flea & Tick Topical Prevention and Treatment for Dogs/ Cats Puainta® Topical Deworming Drops to Kill Fleas & Ticks in Dogs/Cats

Oral medications: Oral flea medications come in the form of chewable tablets or soft chews that are given to pets. These medications work systemically, meaning they are absorbed into the bloodstream and kill fleas when they bite the pet. They can be convenient and effective for pets who may not like topical treatments.

Flea collars: Flea collars are worn around the pet's neck and release active ingredients that repel and kill fleas. Some collars can also protect against ticks. They offer a longer-lasting solution compared to some topical treatments.

Itchy Skin: For flea-induced itchy skin, your vet can prescribe an antibacterial anti-itch spray or anti-itch ointment to effectively relieve red, swollen, itchy skin.


Prevention Of Flea Bites on Dogs

1. Regular Grooming

Regular grooming helps to remove fleas and flea dirt (flea feces) from your dog's coat. Use a fine-toothed flea comb to comb through your dog's fur and catch any fleas or eggs. Dip the comb in soapy water to drown the fleas after each pass.

2. Bathing

Give your dog a bath with a gentle, flea-specific shampoo. Flea shampoos often contain ingredients that help kill and repel fleas. Avoid using human shampoos or harsh chemicals, as they can be harmful to dogs.

3. Preventive Medications

Administering regular flea preventive medications is crucial to keeping your dog protected from future infestations. These medications can come in the form of topical treatments, oral tablets, or collars. Puppies are usually dewormed starting at two weeks of age, and multiple rounds of treatment are typically given until they reach three months old. Adult dogs may require deworming every three to six months, but this can vary based on their lifestyle and environment.

4. Natural Remedies

Natural remedies like essential oils and diatomaceous earth have been suggested to repel fleas, but it's essential to exercise caution and consult a veterinarian before using any of these remedies on your dog.

  • Essential oils: Certain essential oils, such as lavender and citronella, have been claimed to have flea-repelling properties. However, not all essential oils are safe for dogs. Some essential oils can be toxic or irritating to pets, especially if used incorrectly or in high concentrations. Always consult your veterinarian before using essential oils on your dog, and if approved, use them sparingly and in a diluted form.
  • Diatomaceous earth: Diatomaceous earth is a natural substance made from fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms. It is often used as a flea repellent for both pets and their living spaces. When used properly and in food-grade form, diatomaceous earth is generally considered safe for dogs. However, it's essential to use caution to avoid inhaling the dust, as it can be irritating to the lungs.

7 Common Flea-borne Diseases in Dogs

Fleas are not only bothersome but can also transmit various diseases to dogs through their bites. These flea-borne diseases can range from mild to severe, and in some cases, they can even be life-threatening. Here are some common flea-borne diseases in dogs:

1. Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)

This is one of the most common flea-related issues in dogs. When a flea bites a dog with FAD, it injects saliva into the skin. The proteins in flea saliva can trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive dogs, leading to

  • intense itching
  • hair loss
  • redness
  • skin inflammation

Even a single flea bite can cause a severe reaction in dogs with FAD.

2. Tapeworm Infection

Fleas are intermediate hosts for tapeworms. When a dog ingests an adult flea while grooming, it can lead to a tapeworm infection. Tapeworms attach to the dog's intestines and can cause symptoms like

  • abdominal discomfort
  • weight loss
  • segments of the worm visible in the feces or around the dog's anus

Related: Do Dogs Get Tapeworms?

3. Bartonellosis (Cat Scratch Disease)

Bartonellosis, also known as Cat Scratch Disease (CSD), is primarily associated with cats, and it is caused by the bacterium Bartonella henselae. 

Bartonella species can infect various animals, including dogs, Transmission in dogs might occur through other routes, such as bites from infected animals or exposure to infected blood.
This disease can cause

  • fever
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • general malaise in infected dogs

4. Anemia

Severe flea infestations can lead to anemia in dogs, especially in young puppies or debilitated dogs. Fleas feed on the dog's blood, and in large numbers, they can cause enough blood loss to result in anemia, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.

5. Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is a bacterial disease transmitted by the brown dog tick, which can also infest dogs. However, fleas can serve as a secondary vector for this disease. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and bleeding disorders.

6. Anaplasmosis

Anaplasmosis is another bacterial disease transmitted by ticks, but fleas can also play a role in its transmission. It causes similar symptoms to ehrlichiosis, such as fever, lethargy, and joint pain.

7. Rickettsiosis (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever)

This is a tick-borne disease, but fleas can occasionally transmit it. It can cause

  • fever
  • lethargy
  • joint pain
  • skin lesions in dogs



Flea bites on dogs can be an uncomfortable and irritating experience for our four-legged friends. However, with proper prevention, regular grooming, and immediate action upon spotting any symptoms, we can protect our dogs from these pesky parasites. Remember, a healthy and happy dog is a well-protected dog, free from the discomfort of flea bites.

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