How to Spot Fleas on Dogs

April 19, 2014

Animal care louisesheerin No Comments

When you housesit as much as Aidan and I do, you’re bound to run into a few pet problems. Kennel cough, digestive issues, cats who take out their anger at the strange housesitters by urinating on the carpet — all of these situations are standard operating procedure for the professional housesitter. You have to be ready to calm the cats, make sure everyone is fed, exercised, and happy, and know when you need to make that trip to the vet.

Then there’s fleas. Fleas and dogs go together like bread and butter, so if you’re housesitting you’re probably going to have to deal with a flea problem at some point. Remember: just because a dog has fleas doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong, or the homeowners aren’t taking proper care of their pet — even the best-cared-for dog is likely to get fleas at least once during its lifetime.

Caring for dogs while housesitting means knowing how to spot fleas before they become a problem. Here are a few tips:

Watch the dog for changes in behaviour

What’s the first sign that a dog might have fleas? Excessive scratching, of course! If the dog you are house sitting appears uncomfortable and is repeatedly scratching itself, especially behind the ears, you might be looking at a flea problem. Your dog may also lick areas of the body repeatedly, in an attempt to soothe and clean the skin.

Know how to give a flea inspection

Even if you don’t see signs of scratching, it’s a good idea to do a quick flea inspection at least once during your pet sitting job. The simplest way to search for fleas is to get the dog to lie on its back while you check its exposed belly and groin area. You can combine this with a fun petting session to make the dog comfortable.

You might be able to spot a few live fleas, but what you’re also looking for what is called “flea dirt:” the tiny black specks that fleas leave behind. These specks are, of course, flea feces — but “flea dirt” is the accepted euphemism. The reason you look for flea dirt around the dog’s belly and groin is because these are the areas of the body with the least fur, so the flea dirt will be easy to spot.

Another great way to determine whether a dog has fleas is to give the dog’s coat a once-over with a fine-toothed flea comb. If the dog has fleas, you’ll see both live fleas and flea dirt cling to the comb after you’ve finished using it. Dunk the comb into a bucket of warm, soapy water to kill the fleas and wash off the flea dirt.

Have appropriate supplies on hand

Here are two important flea supplies to keep in your house minding kit:

  • A fresh flea comb
  • A safe flea treatment (it’s best to confirm any topical medicines or shampoos with the pet’s owner before using them)

If you are house sitting for a dog that has fleas, do your part by washing the dog’s bedding and soft cloth items, washing the home’s sheets and towels, and vacuuming all carpets. Then talk to the homeowners and ask them what next steps they would like you to take: flea bombs, flea carpet shampoo, etc. That way, you’ll be able to mitigate the flea problem before the fleas take over the entire house, and you’ll be able to keep the homeowners in the loop on any chemicals or products used in their home.

If your in need of a housesitter in Sydney, get in touch via our contact form

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