The dreaded dog flea: can it make the jump to humans?

If a dog is furiously scratching itself or constantly picking at a spot in its fur, it might be a sign that it picked up some fleas. But can dog fleas also make the jump up to humans? TAG24 has all the important facts and advice for pet owners!

This pooch is probably plagued by a flea or two.
This pooch is probably plagued by a flea or two.  © 123RF: VASILIS VERVERIDIS

Dog fleas are parasites that feed on all sorts of warm-blooded animals by penetrating the skin with their proboscis – a tubular sucking organ. A flea bite leaves the skin around the entry point with an itch that can be anything from mild to severe.

Flea bites are not just annoying – they shouldn't be underestimates, as they can transmit diseases or other parasites such as tapeworms.

Dog owners are naturally worried about their pets potentially passing on a nasty flea infestation.

And it's true that both dog and cat fleas can make the jump to humans, since they aren't picky eaters and only care about a good meal, not its source.

Equally, pets can catch fleas from their humans, so it goes both ways.

How to recognize a flea bite

Dog fleas usually focus on one area, so the bite marks will be close together. Feeding often happens at night, so if you wake up with a highway of bites on a body part, you're probably dealing with a flea (although bedbugs also commonly pick one small area of skin to feast on).

To make absolutely sure, you can sit your pet on a white or light-colored cloth and give it a good rub. If you notice dark particles falling out of its fur, use a damp paper towel to grind them up and check the smears that they leave on the surface. Reddish brown spots on the paper towel are a sign that the particles are actually flea droppings.

That coloring comes from the dried blood contained in a flea excrement.

Your pooch might not like it, but a thorough run through with a dog flea comb is a great way to stop the itching.
Your pooch might not like it, but a thorough run through with a dog flea comb is a great way to stop the itching.  © 123RF: Olga Marc

What to do about dog fleas

  • Brushing out the fleas – A flea comb for dogs will efficiently remove the nasty parasites. Its densely-packed bristles are designed to pick up and trap fleas and it's great for thorough grooming in general.
  • Treatments for dog fleas: For particularly bad infestations, there are effective sprays or drops that should applied to a pet's neck area or any spot that is difficult to reach – and lick – for the animal. The poison will spread throughout the coat and reliably exterminate the fleas.

Fighting and preventing dog fleas

Some manufacturers offer flea and tick dog collars, which are effective for acute infestations, but also to prevent fleas from making themselves at home in the first place.

It's also a good idea to give your canine companion a good brush with a flea comb on a regular basis, regardless of whether it has fleas. This is a reliable way to stop an infestation from ever developing.

Not least of all, the presence of fleas isn't always immediately detectable, so a thorough grooming session might even fix a problem you never knew you had.

Cover photo: 123RF: VASILIS VERVERIDIS

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