Signs of a Flea Infestation

Learn how to identify and control a flea infestation.

Fleas have always been a bane to humans, livestock, and pets. Responsible for numerous plagues throughout history (including the Black Death that wiped out a third of Europe's population), fleas continue to pester us and torment our pets today. By learning how to identify the signs of fleas, you will be better able to control them in your home and yard before they get out of hand.

Be Aware of Flea Season

Flea season typically peaks during the hot, hot days of summer, but these pests can actually be a year-round problem. The time to start looking for them—and taking preventative measures to safeguard your pet from them—is during the spring, before prime-time flea season. However, if you notice that your pet is scratching more frequently and with greater urgency, you should check him or her over to determine whether or not fleas are present.

Identifying Fleas on Your Pet

To check for fleas on your pet, use a flea comb to separate the fur so you can inspect the skin. You're looking for small darkish specks. Fleas are typically brown, black, or reddish. If you spot something that color and see it move, you have found a flea. These pests are less than ⅛-inch in length, with 6 long legs that enable them to jump long distances. Even if you only spot 1 or 2 fleas, you should not underestimate the problem. A single female flea can lay up to 50 eggs in a day, so you should take steps to tackle the problem right away.

Fleas on a pet hair comb

Other Signs of Fleas

Flea Dirt

As you check your pet, you may note dark specks on the skin that do not move. These specks may be "flea dirt," another term for flea feces. You can use a white tissue or paper towel to pick up a couple specks for identification. If the specks turn reddish-brown when they come into contact with a drop of water, they are flea dirt. (The red hue is from the blood that the flea has consumed.)

Flea Bites

The presence of flea bites is also a telltale sign of a flea infestation. Flea bites will leave areas of your pet's skin red and irritated. The belly, hindquarters, neck, and ears are typically places that fleas attack.

How to Kill Fleas

If you discover your pet has fleas, the sooner you address the problem, the better. The best approach is a multi-step one, where you simultaneously target fleas, larvae, and eggs on your pet, in your house, and in your yard.

On your pet. First, use a flea comb to remove fleas from your pet and kill them in hot, soapy water. This is also a good time to consult your veterinarian regarding the right flea control treatment for your pet, as well as options to help prevent future flea issues.

In your home. Next, you should vacuum all carpeted floors and draperies. Dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag when you're finished by sealing it in a plastic bag and placing it in your outdoor trash bin. Treat carpeting with Ortho® Home Defense Max® Bed Bug, Flea & Tick Killer to kill any remaining fleas. Continue to vacuum your carpets and draperies daily until all signs of the infestation are eliminated.

All bedding should be washed in hot, soapy water, and your pet's living space and any areas of the home in which he or she prefers to sleep should be thoroughly scoured and treated with Ortho® Home Defense Max® Bed Bug Killer (which also works on fleas). Always follow the product's directions for use, and keep your pet out of the treated area until the spray has dried.

In your yard. To treat for fleas outdoors, treat your lawn with Ortho® BugClear® Lawn Insect Killer and the perimeter of your home with Ortho® Home Defense® Insect Killer for Lawn & Landscape.

Fleas can be difficult pests to contend with, but it's essential to take action in order to safeguard the health of your pets—and your family.