what is flea dirt

Flea Dirt: Everything you need to know

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This article is not intended as medical advice, and should not be taken as such. It is simply a compilation of notes from my research to better maintain the health of my own dogs, and is shared for informational purposes only. The idea is to be much better prepared when one does consult with a veterinarian. :)

The majority of dogs – at some point- will suffer from fleas, these pesky parasites can be a huge source of discomfort for our pets.

Fleas can cause itchiness and skin irritations; they can even cause anemia if your dog is allergic to flea bites.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to find out if your dog is infested with fleas, yes, flea dirt.

What is flea dirt?

Flea dirt is the dried form of partly digested host’s blood, which defecated from the fleas. The growing flea larvae use the flea dirt as food. 

In order to understand why fleas can be a source of nuisance for you and your pet, let’s talk about how fleas live and reproduce.

In brief, the life cycle of fleas can be summarized as follows:

  1. An adult flea hops on you or your pet, spits onto the skin, and starts sucking blood for nutrients.
  2. The flea then poops (releasing small black grainy particles called flea dirt).
  3. The female flea lays eggs (lots of them) that slide into cracks (anywhere).
  4. These eggs hatch into larvae that live a few weeks, feasting on organic debris and flea dirt.
  5. The larvae spin a cocoon that survives against most flea treatments for up to a year.
  6. Lastly, heat or carbon dioxide (mammals’ breath) triggers the adult to appear and start looking for a warm blood-filled body to latch onto.

What does flea dirt look like?

Flea dirt looks like black, tiny, round pepper flecks. Flea dirt can be spotted with the naked eye in the fur of your pet.

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One way to tell real dirt from flea dirt is to moisten the black debris you obtain from your pet. If it turns red it is flea dirt.

Use a flea comb in the opposite direction of your pet’s hair to catch fleas or flea dirt.

Flea dirt pictures

flea dirt pictures
flea dirt pics

Flea dirt test

Since fleas suck the blood of your pet for nutrients, it’s evident that the main component of flea dirt is blood.

Use a flea comb and comb through your pet’s hair, once you find dark specks, lift a few of them and place them on a wet paper towel. The flea dirt color should turn into reddish or brown once it moistens on the damp paper towel.

Flea dirt on dogs

If you find fleas or flea dirt on your dog, you need to treat the house, yard and pets, then move into the next steps to improve their health.

Start by giving your dog a rigorous bath with the best flea shampoos for dogs, let the liquid sit for a few minutes to take effect before you rinse it off.

Once your dog becomes well cleaned and rinsed, you can start the grooming process by using a fine-tooth flea comb, make sure to buy a high-quality flea comb and groom through your pet’s hair, get rid of any flea dirt or actual fleas that you spot.

Using flea shampoos and flea combs is ideal as a first step of an effective flea control program, however, to get rid of flea dirt ultimately, you’ll need to kill all fleas, larvae and flea egg on your pet, and also treat your home and yard thoroughly.

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Get rid of flea dirt


After washing your dog’s bedding – and yours also – Vacuum all your carpets and upholstered items with a powerful flea vacuum cleaner.

Make sure to Vacuum and mop your home frequently, so there is no organic debris and flea dirt for the larvae to eat.

According to science daily, scientists have concluded that vacuuming kills fleas in all degrees of their lives, with a 96% success rate in killing adult fleas and 100% elimination of youthful fleas.

IGR (insect growth regulator)

You may also want to keep in mind applying products which include flea bombs, which contain insect growth regulators (igr).

This substance may provide as much as 12 months of protection; it also comes on the form of sprays and rinses that can be carried out to particular areas at home and outdoors.

Make sure you read the instructions to ensure the safety of your family and your pets.

Insect grow regulator inhibits the life cycle of fleas and prevent flea eggs from hatching and developing into flea larvae.

If you suffer from a severe flea infestation, you may want to consult an extermination professional for the safety of your house and surroundings.

Flea dirt but no fleas?

It’s common to notice flea dirt and not the fleas, especially with a long-haired dog, however, when you see flea dirt, it’s confirmed that you have fleas

Actually, the infestation has to be pretty bad till you see fleas.

Getting rid of Fleas can be hard, especially if they have already laid eggs in the house; if that’s the case, you’ll always find fleas even if you treat your dog.

Here are some tips you can use for flea dirt removal:

  • Treat your dog and especially the surroundings (that’s where the eggs and larvae hide).
  • Clean everything around your dog (bed sheets, brush, etc.) to get rid of flea eggs and larvae. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a re-infestation.
  • Keep the dog on a preventative ( Read: Best flea treatments for dogs)
  • Bathe your dog.
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If you are still finding flea dirt, you should definitely consider changing your preventives.

Should I ignore flea dirt?

Fleas can be a huge source of discomfort for you and your pet, but with the right treatment, you can easily keep these parasites at bay.

What makes fleas a powerful opponent, is their ability to reproduce in massive numbers, one flea can turn into an army of fleas in a short period.

These pesky parasites will not only cause itching and skin irritations to your pet, but they can also cause dangerous internal damage.

For instance, your dog may become anemic, or he may become allergic to flea saliva, which leads to flea allergy dermatitis.

Prevention is key

When it comes to dealing with fleas, prevention is better than cure; there are several simple ways to prevent your dog from getting flooded by fleas.

There are countless products on the market that you can use to treat your Lab efficiently for fleas and flea dirt. Check the flea treatments category for more.

If you’re concerned about harmful chemicals and toxins, check some of the best natural home remedies to get rid of fleas.

Essential oils are also quite effective in eliminating these parasites.

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