Fleas—they’re the worst. They may be tiny, but they’re no small matter for your furry friend. The effects of flea bites range from minor annoyance to life-threatening. While these critters can be hard to detect before they hatch, there are some tips for spotting flea eggs on dogs. Learn how you can prevent an infestation during flea season and beyond.
How Dogs Catch Fleas
Pets can pick up fleas from their environment or from other pets, says Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM. As animals with fleas walk through your home or yard, they often leave behind fleas and flea eggs. As your dog plays, sleeps and rolls around outside, they become an easy target for adult fleas.
Even indoor pets are at risk if you have an outdoor infestation. You can bring fleas and flea eggs into your home if they find their way onto your clothing or shoes. “The most common type of flea in the US, Ctenocephalides felis, prefers to live on dogs and cats but will feed on people when necessary,” Dr. Coates says.
Fleas like it warm, which is why summer months are considered to be prime flea season. “Fleas reproduce quickly under warm and humid conditions, so this is when infestations tend to be at their worst,” Dr. Coates says. It’s important to be especially vigilant at flea detection during this time.
However, dogs are at risk all year long. “Fleas can survive and reproduce year-round in many locations and indoors,” Dr. Coates says.
What Do Flea Eggs Look Like on a Dog?
Female fleas can lay between four and eight eggs after each meal. Fleas will even increase their egg production before they die. So, what do flea eggs look like on a dog? These tiny flea eggs can look like dandruff or salt, Dr. Coates says. They’re small and white or clear—and hard to see.
“It’s very difficult to find flea eggs on your dog since they are so tiny and light in color,” Dr. Coates says. “Also, flea eggs are designed to fall off your pet so large numbers won’t generally be found on your dog at any one time.”
A flea comb, like Safari’s Double Row Flea Comb for Dogs, can help you get between pet hairs to better identify the tiny white eggs. “Flea combs can help you identify adult fleas and flea dirt (flea feces) on your dog,” Dr. Coates says.
Knowing what flea eggs look like on a dog is only part of the battle. Pet parents should also be vigilant for the eggs around their home. If you’re having difficulty spotting flea eggs on your dog, check their sleeping areas, Dr. Coates says. A dark-colored pet bed, like Frisco’s Tufted Lounger, which comes in dark gray, can help you spot these tiny white eggs. When hunting for flea eggs on dogs or in their sleeping area, Dr. Coates says, use a magnifying glass to get a better view.
If your dog already has adult fleas, scratching can increase flea egg distribution. For that reason, you’re likely to find flea eggs on the ground around your home. If left untouched, eggs can hatch within 12 days. So, it is very important to also check for adult fleas, and to treat your dog as well as your home.
“Looking for fleas on the pet’s stomach and around their tail are two good and easy places to check your pet for live fleas—especially if you see scratching,” says Dr. Kristen Vance, DVM at Homeward Bound Mobile Vet.
Flea eggs aren’t the only sign your dog has a flea problem. If you see these other indicators, it’s time to take action against fleas and flea eggs on your dog.
Flea dirt is the feces left behind by fleas. You can identify flea dirt on your dog by looking in between the fur for spots that look like brown dirt.
“If you see this dirt and hit it with a drop of water, you will see a blood color,” Dr. Vance says.
Flea Larvae and Pupae
Flea larvae are from the early stages of the flea life cycle and are between 2 and 5 millimeters long with a white or transparent appearance, Dr. Coates says. Flea larvae look like very small maggots. They live on the feces left behind by their adult siblings—but can also eat particles of food, dead insects, feathers and dead skin cells.
The larvae stage lasts for about 4-18 days, with most larvae developing in about a week, Dr. Coates says. Then larvae form cocoons and become pupae. They live in these cocoons for anywhere from one week to a year, so you may still have pupae for months after killing adult fleas. That’s why it is so important to use a flea and tick product that doesn’t just kill pests in the adult life cycle, but also eliminates flea eggs and larvae, like Frontline Plus Flea & Tick Treatment. If you prefer a flea collar for your pet, the Seresto 8 Month Flea & Tick Collar for dogs and cats kill fleas and their larvae on contact.
“A veterinarian familiar with a dog’s individual needs can prescribe the right flea preventative,” Dr. Coates says. “Some preventatives, like Comfortis, control only fleas, while others, like Frontline Gold, K9 Advantix II, and Trifexis, provide more broad-spectrum parasite control.”
If your dog is scratching and you suspect they may have come in contact with fleas, schedule a visit to your vet to assist with flea egg identification.
How to Get Rid of Flea Eggs on Dogs
To get rid of flea eggs on dogs, you’ll have to get rid of their source: adult fleas. There are multiple products to help kill adult fleas on dogs. “The same products used for flea prevention are used to treat an active infestation,” Dr. Coates says.
In addition to spot-on treatments and collars, flea and tick shampoos, like Richard’s Organics, are another option. Oral treatments like Capstar Flea Tablets for Dogs can be fed to your dog once daily to kill adult fleas within 4 hours.
Many treatments not only kill adult fleas, but also kill eggs and prevent new eggs from hatching.
To end the flea cycle, you’ll need to do more than get rid of the flea eggs and fleas on your dog. You’ll need to remove flea and flea eggs nesting in your home as well, Dr. Coates says.
“Vacuuming is the best way to remove flea eggs, larvae and pupae from your home,” Dr. Coates says. “Severe infestations may also benefit from environmental controls like sprays.” A dog flea and tick spray for the home, like Vet’s Best Dog Flea & Tick Home Spray, works to kill fleas, flea eggs and ticks on contact.
To effectively use flea home sprays, apply a light mist to areas until moist. Avoid soaking the fabric; a mist is all you need to be effective. Be sure to spray indoor and outdoor areas, as flea eggs can survive outdoors as well.
Preventing Fleas and Flea Eggs on Dogs
Eliminating flea eggs is an essential part of preventing a flea infestation. Temperature directly affects flea reproductive cycles. Warm climates can speed up the process, so pet owners who live in warmer areas have even less time to eliminate fleas of all life stages before the next wave of flea babies arrive.
Keeping a clean home can reduce your risk of an infestation. Flea eggs can hide in your couches, under pillows and even in your sheets. Use a pet vacuum to suck up tiny flea eggs, Dr. Coates says. Handheld vacuums like the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser work well, since they’re easy to lift and get into tiny crevices and corners.
And don’t quit giving your pet flea preventative treatment, even after you think the infestation is gone. “Keeping pets on flea prevention year-round will protect them from any adult fleas that emerge within your home as well as those that make their way indoors,” Dr. Coates says.
“Prevention is the best medicine,” Dr. Vance says. Keep your precious pup safe from vicious fleas by killing flea egg and ending the flea life cycle before it becomes a larger problem for you and your pet.