How to tell if your pet has fleas

Animed Blog Post Dotmailer Masthead 660x400px_8.2.19.indd

Fleas aren’t the nicest of things that pet owners have to deal with, yet they are something we have to deal with all the same. The earlier you can tell if your cat or dog has fleas the easier they are to get rid of.

We’ve spoken to our vets and put together a guide on how to spot fleas. It covers some of the main signs and mentions a few products that can help make your life a little easier.

So, what are some of the main signs of fleas?

Itching and scratching

Scratching can be a common behaviour in most animals, but it can also be a sign of fleas.

If you notice your pet chewing on their fur and scratching a lot, it’s possible they have fleas.

Excessive grooming and hair loss

This is more common in cats than dogs, but excessive self-grooming can be down to fleas. If the flea infestation is getting severe, this can lead to fur loss in certain patches.

You might notice fur loss on your pet’s back, which can suggest that fleas are the culprit.


Imagine if you had tiny insects jumping all over your body, it would be pretty hard to sit still. It’s the same for our pets.

Fleas can be downright agitating and can make your pet extremely stressed.

Check your pet

Fleas are pretty small (thankfully, imagine if they were the size of mice!) but this does make them hard to spot – especially if they have thick, black fur.

Just because you can’t actually see them on your pet, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Make sure you check thoroughly. Gently lie them down and thoroughly check their fur.

We recommend using a dedicated flea comb to do this, it makes things a lot easier.

If your pet has thick or long fur it can be difficult to look through their coat for fleas.

Use a detangling shampoo, such as Coatex, it helps detangle long coats and makes it a lot easier to spot any fleas calling your pet their home. You don’t want to be left thinking your pet doesn’t have any fleas just because their coat was in the way of you seeing them!

Fleas like to hang out behind the ears and near your pet’s tail, so be sure to check those areas well.

You want to look out for flea dirt on your pet’s skin, which would look a bit like black pepper. If you notice any small black spots on their skin, it’s likely your pet has fleas.

Check your home

Contrary to popular belief, fleas don’t just live on your pet. Many fleas and their eggs and larvae, will be living in your home.

Here’s what to look out for when you’re walking around your house.

  • Little black dots on your pet’s bedding and anywhere else they like to sleep. This is usually “flea dirt” (flea poop for us commoners). To double check that these black spots aren’t just household dirt, brush your pet over a piece of paper to catch what comes off. If it is flea dirt it will dissolve and leave only blood behind when wetted.
  • If your pet isn’t in the mood for a nice brush, try wearing white socks when walking around your house. Your socks can pick up flea dirt and even the fleas themselves.
  • If you’re feeling like starting to kill a few of the fleas yourself, you can set a little flea trap. Place a bowl of water in front of a night light and leave them near your pet’s bedding. When it turns to night time the fleas will be attracted to the light, and jump into the water. In the morning you can look in the bowl, if you see dead fleas you have proof they are in the vicinity (you can also shout, “Ha! Gotcha!” At the fleas in the water. It’s what we did).

If you do find evidence that fleas are calling your home theirs, they need to be eradicated straight away. This doesn’t just mean treating your pet, you need to treat the rest of the house too.

The nasty little parasites like to leave their eggs in your pet’s bedding and in soft-furnishings and carpets. They can hatch at various times throughout the year (they particularly like to hatch when it gets warmer in your house, whether due to winter heating or the summer sun) so the best way to stay flea-free is by treating your house throughout the year.

The routine of checking for fleas is an important part of being a pet owner. To help you on your flea searching quest, here’s some products that make spotting fleas that little bit easier.

If you’re concerned that your efforts to treat your house and pet for fleas have been ineffective or your pet continues to excessively scratch, speak to your vet for advice.