What is Flea Dirt? (An Eye Opener on a Dirty Secret) | Herepup
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What is Flea Dirt? (An Eye Opener on a Dirty Secret)

You’re grooming your dog, and suddenly you see them – small black flecks that, while they look like soil, are clearly not soil. These tiny bits of nastiness even have a name – flea dirt. But what causes these icky bits from forming? Better yet, what can be done about them?

A Look at Flea Dirt

Essentially, flea dirt the calling card that a flea infestation leaves behind once they have bitten and sucked blood from your dog. It’s more or less flea poop primarily consisting of dried blood. The dried blood is the element that gives the dirt its black color.

Obviously, flea dirt is easier to spot on a dog that has a white coat because of the contrasting colors, but flea dirt will be present on any pooch that has a flea issue. There is no one uniform shape to flea dirt, but they usually look like black pepper or minuscule black dots. And they are indeed tiny – they are typically about a half-millimeter in length.

Where Would I Look for Flea Dirt?

If you've noticed your dog is itching more than normal and you suspect the presence of fleas, checking for flea dirt is arguably your best way to determine what exactly what's happening. In order to do so, your best bet is to take a gander at the areas where fleas are most likely to manifest on your pooch.

How Can I Make Sure I’m Dealing with Flea Dirt?

Before you start wondering where the fleas on your dog are once you think you’ve seen flea dirt, it’s important that you make sure what you’re dealing with is flea dirt and not actual dirt. Fortunately, there is an easy way to do so that isn’t too gross.

To see what your dog is dealing with plucking the offending specks from your dog’s fur and place them on a damp piece of white tissue. If it is indeed flea dirt, a small red halo will manifest itself around the clump. The reason for this is because the blood within the flea dirt will re-hydrate and run out along the tissue.

Okay – So I See Flea Dirt. Why Don’t I See Any Fleas?

Just because you see oodles of flea dirt on your pooch, there is no guarantee that you will see fleas running rampant amongst his coat. Some of this are due to the insect's size – they are indeed very tiny critters. However, some of this are due to their physical abilities.

Unlike most insects that can be considered pests like mosquitos, fleas do not have wings. They make up for this trait by having very powerful legs that allow them to effortlessly jump off of their host and onto the environment surrounding its host. If your dog returns to the environment where fleas hang out, they will jump right back on.

Why Are Fleas on My Dog in the First Place?

In short, fleas need a host in order to help perpetuate the species. The blood of a dog (or a cat or even a human) will help nourish the female of the species as she lays eggs. Plus, the dog’s coat provides a warm and relatively safe environment for the eggs to be laid.

Typically, when a female flea takes up residence on your dog, she will suck his blood two to three times per day. She'll also lay about twenty to thirty eggs on a daily basis. She can lay hundreds of eggs on your pooch over the course of a lifetime.

These eggs won’t necessarily stay on your dog; they will roll off and land in a nourishing environment, where they will undergo a metamorphosis not unlike what a caterpillar goes through en route to becoming a butterfly. Once they become adults, they will immediately seek out a space where they detect heat, vibrations, and carbon dioxide (in other words, your pooch).

How Do I Remove Flea Dirt?

What is Flea Dirt 2

In terms of a short-term solution, the best way to get rid of flea dirt is to gently wash and shampoo your dog. You'll especially want to concentrate your scrubbing on places where the critters are known to manifest.

However, it must be emphasized that this is only a temporary fix. If your dog has flea dirt, it also means he has fleas. As such, you’ll need to hatch a long-term solution involving the eradication of fleas in order to rid your dog of the flea dirt problem for good.

And it is pretty important to take care of your dog’s flea problem as efficiently as possible, just for the sake of your pooch’s well-being. In some dogs, all it takes is one flea bite to make his life completely miserable. This misery can manifest itself in forms such as perpetually scratching, but it can also lead to other issues such as hair loss and skin issues.

There are plenty of treatments available on the market that can help your pooch overcome his flea problem. Some of these manifest itself in the form of topical ointments or sprays that you can directly apply to your pooch’s fur. Others are medications that your dog can take orally.

If your dog has severe issues that have been brought about by fleas, you may want to consult with your veterinarian prior to creating a regiment for your pooch. Your vet will be able to examine your dog to determine what type of solution would work best to combat the specific range of problems your pooch may be experiencing.

He’s Your Dog – It’s the Least You Can Do!

The moment you see flea dirt on your pooch, you should be compelled to do something about making it go away. After all, flea dirt in its base form is a sign that your four-legged friend is experiencing some miserable times thanks to fleas. As a loving pet owner, knowing this should be all the motivation you need in order to find a solution to make him feel better.


Laura Harris

Dr. Laura Harris is our resident dog health expert. She started to fact-check dog health-related information for HerePup during her internship and contributes since then. Her expertise is in dog nutrition, senior dog care, especially critical care medicine and internal medicine.

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