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What is it?
Flea dirt is actually flea feces that are composed of dried blood or digested blood. You will usually spot them as black or reddish brown colored tiny dots (think tiny specks that resemble pepper) on your pets and can be a dangerous sign of fleas on your pet and the surrounding living areas. Their usual favorite hangout is on your pet’s tummy and tail. If you think you spot it, make sure you take the necessary immediate actions to keep them away from your pets and prevent any further harm to their health.
Dealing with fleas is not an easy task, especially in summer as they are typically most active in warmer months. However, keeping an eye on your pet and spotting fleas early may decrease the health risk to your pet.
What does it look like?
Fleas are a serious problem for your pets throughout the year, especially when the weather starts to warm up, causing them to increase in numbers. Special attention need to be paid in the beginning of warmer months and spring season. They can be specks that measure about 1/16 inch to 1/8 inch long.
Related: Top 5 Best Flea and Tick Treatments
Black particles on your pet or around there sleeping and living areas may be “flea dirt”. Take note of these two easy ways to check for these black particles:
1. Use a flea comb (Check here for the most popular and effective flea combs – a flea comb made of metal is recommended). Use the flea comb over your pet’s coat and run it as it reaches the skin through the coat. Pull it back; if you observe any black particles or specks on your flea comb, bingo, you have found it (Although we know it is barely an exciting sign) Take a bowl of warm soapy water and soak the flea comb in it, so that they stuck in it and cannot get way and jump back on your pet.
2. Another simple and convenient way to spot it is to place a white towel or white paper underneath your pet and rub your hands all over its fur. If black particles or specks appear on the towel/paper, it may be flea dirt.
If your pet is infested with fleas, it will behave very irritated and annoyed. You dog or cat may become very nervous, annoyed and may scratch unreasonably. Once fleas are spotted, it is time to take action as you would want to prevent the problem from spreading to other areas of your home.
Flea Dirt On Cats
Check your cat’s tail, neck and rump areas especially when you’re doing a routine check for fleas. Even though fleas are known to move fast, you might still be able to find signs of them in the form of flea dirt. Again, keep a look out for brown or black dotted specks. Sometimes, you might black spots falling off their bodies when they lick and scratch.
If you do find any, you can confirm what it is by placing the specks on a paper towel, misting it with water and checking if it turns red. If it does, it is because the flea feces consists of digested blood. Also make sure you check your cat’s bedding. Flea dirt can very well fall onto your cat’s bed and turn red due to the rubbing and friction of your cat’s body. So if you’re doing a routine check of your cat’s bedding, look out for reddish spots.
How to get rid of flea dirt on cats and dogs
Using a metal flea comb like these ones is the easiest way to get rid of them. Get a metal one that has teeth designed close together to help pick out both the dirt and the fleas themselves! Remember, there’s no point just getting rid of the signs – you have to get rid of the root cause. As you find it stuck in the teeth of the flea comb, wipe it on a paper towel and dispose it. If you find that there is a lot of ‘leftover’ or residue after you have gotten rid of the fleas themselves, don’t worry. They should come off with some shampoo and rinsing over a week. If they are really stubborn, soak your pet for a longer while in shampoo before rinsing. Make sure you try to remove it from your dog or cat as the leftovers can irritate your pet’s skin.
Flea Dirt On Bed
Finding some on your pets can cause you to worry about the presence of fleas on your very own bed. How can you tell the difference between fleas and bed bugs for example? While there is no definite tell tale signs, fleas are more likely to bite you around your ankles or in the region around the lower parts of your legs. Both fleas and bed bugs can cause reddish bumps/sores, itching and irritation to your skin However, bed bugs usually bite in a somewhat more linear fashion whereas fleas seem to bite people in a more random manner in exposed skin areas.
Help! I’m finding flea dirt but no fleas.
The unfortunate news is that if you’re finding flea dirt, there is most likely fleas. Perhaps your pet has long hair which makes it harder for you to actually spot the fleas themselves. If you’re lucky, it can just be leftovers from a previous flea infestation. Treat your pet with flea medication and give it a few days. If you see signs of flea dirt again, you have just confirmed the presence of fleas still.
How to Treat Flea Infestation Now That You Know the Signs
Treatment of a flea infestation includes four major parts:
1. Killing the adult fleas that are already on your pet’s body.
2. Killing the newly-arriving fleas on your pet. It will take more time, maybe around three months to kill all the fleas on your pet in an environment in which fleas already exists.
3. Insect growth regulator (IGR) is best way to prevent further infestation of the home. IGR suppresses the hatching of viable flea eggs and prohibit the development of larvae into adult fleas.
4. Clearing the home and the environment of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae that are already present.
The first three parts are easily achieved by asking your veterinarian for the appropriate product that contains two effective ingredients (one to kill adult fleas and other to prevent the development of eggs and larvae).
Cocoons protect the flea pupae. Flea pupae hatch out and grow up to become a adult flea, after that they can be killed only. The whole process can take several weeks but it is necessary to get rid your pet and home environment from flea infestation. Also, allow your pets to roam their usual haunts and continue with the regular flea treatment. If you have more than one pet, make sure to treat all of them with the same remedial measures. If one pet is infested, then all can be infested also.
How to prevent future infestations:
In addition to above mentioned steps, the following steps can also help to prevent flea infestation:
- Vacuum those areas which your pet frequently visits and play around. Frequent vacuum in pet’s living areas is very effective
- Regularly washing of all your pet’s belongings in hot water.
- Keep your rooms, lawns and whole home environment as neat and clean as possible.
- Keep all non-washable items in sunlight for hours periodically.
Serious Health Effects
In addition to extreme discomfort, fleas and ticks can also cause serious health problems in dogs and people.
a) Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD): When a flea bites your pet, it leaves a small amount of saliva on the skin. In reaction to this saliva, FAD can develop which causes severe itching.
b) Anemia: The signs of anemia include pale gums, weakness and lethargy in your pet, which occurs due to too many fleas suck a large amount of blood.
Always pay attention and try to spot flea dirt on your pet as early as possible. Once spotted, waste no time in taking action to protect your pet and get rid of the infestation before it becomes a big concern. Also remember if you are finding yourself unable to deal with flea infestation, contact an exterminator to help you.