Unusual dirt around the house, skin reactions such as rashes and bites, or constant scratching of pets may indicate a flea infestation. However, all these symptoms may also be caused by other pests. Knowing what fleas look like is essential to promptly identify and deal with a flea infestation.

That’s why our pest control specialists are sharing everything you need to know about identifying fleas and how to spot them:

What does a flea look like to the naked eye?

There are over 60 types of fleas in the UK. Still, the most common flea species are the Cat Flea (Ctenocephalides Felis) and the Dog Flea (Ctenocephalides Canis). They are named after their preferred hosts, but they can feed on all kinds of mammals, including humans. There are four stages in the flea life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult (imago). Adult fleas make up only about 5% of the total population. The remaining 95% are eggs, larvae and pupae. They are scattered everywhere in your house! All stages of the flea life cycle have distinct appearances. Here is what each stage looks like:

Adult Fleas

Fleas have a very similar appearance across different types. They can usually only be distinguished by trained professionals under a microscope. They are flat-bodied, wingless and can be dark grey to dark brown. Most species have spines that point backwards, which allow them to grip onto their host. A typical adult Dog flea is around 2mm in size. In contrast, an adult Cat flea is generally larger, measuring around 3mm. Both Cat and Dog fleas are dark brown in colour.

Flea Eggs

Flea eggs are oval in shape and of a whitish colour. They rarely stick to the host; more frequently, they drop and scatter throughout the house, spreading the infestation. Flea eggs’ tiny size (less than half a millimetre long) makes them nearly impossible to spot on your pet, on their bedding, or on the floor. At best, flea eggs resemble dander to the naked eye. However, flea eggs look like rice grains under a microscope.

Flea Larvae

Flea larvae look like small, off-white worms around 2-5 millimetres in length. Upon hatching, larvae burrow deep into carpets, cracks, and grass. Although they do not live on the host, they still prefer to stay close, so homeowners often spot them on their pets’ bedding. When present, flea larvae appear as c-shaped specks and can be either pale or dark, depending on their last meal. They feed on flea dirt, which may look like specks of pepper.

Flea Pupae (Cocoons)

Flea pupae closely resemble adult fleas. However, flea pupae are rarely seen because they are encased in a cocoon made of a sticky silk material that attracts dust, hair, lint, and other fibres. Due to their minuscule size, flea cocoons are hard to see with the naked eye, as they are only about 4-5 mm long and 2 mm wide. They blend easily with their surroundings, making them difficult to spot.

How to Spot Fleas On Your Pet?

Spotting fleas or flea bites on your furry friend can be challenging but not impossible. Admittedly, it’s easier to detect fleas on pets with short, light-coloured fur and skin, as the dark fleas will stand out more. These pesky insects are tiny and agile; even a few fleas can cause severe irritation to some pets. Both cats and dogs with fleas tend to scratch excessively and bite their skin.

What Fleas and Flea Bites Look Like on Dog Skin?

Check armpits around the groyne since these areas are warm and feel protected. Use a comb or your hands to part your dog’s fur to expose the skin and look for:

  • Adult fleas – tiny, elongated, dark-brown insects that scurry away quickly or even jump
  • Red and bumpy skin, especially if your dog has been scratching excessively
  • Larvae or cocooned larvae that are pupating stuck between the animal’s fur
  • Flea dirt – tiny black specks that resemble finely ground black pepper.

How Do Fleas Look Like on Your Cat

When checking your cat for fleas, you should inspect their skin just like you would with a dog. This involves parting their fur and closely examining their body’s warm, protected areas. Cats show similar symptoms and signs as dogs when they have fleas, such as fast-crawling adult fleas, flea dirt, red and swollen skin, and even bald patches. Scabs near the spine can also develop quickly due to flea bites, even if your cat is not allergic to fleas. Excessive grooming is another sign that your cat may have fleas.

What Does Flea Dirt Look Like?

Sometimes, you may not see the fleas themselves, but you may notice flea dirt. These tiny dark specks are flea excrements that look like regular dirt. The way to tell the difference is to collect some with a paper towel and then wet the tissue. Flea dirt will stain the tissue red, as it contains blood.

Can You See Flea Eggs on Your Pet?

You will unlikely see flea eggs on your cat or dog. Adult female fleas lay eggs on the skin or fur of the host. However, the tiny, light-coloured, oval eggs fall off the coat into the environment.

Can You Spot Fleas on Yourself?

The short answer is yes. Their distinguished look makes fleas easy to spot on our bare skin. However, although fleas bite people, they don’t live on them. They wander off as soon as they feed, seeking a better host to hide, preferably a cat or a dog. We have less body hair, so it’s difficult for fleas to attach and there are less spots to hide. Also, we have a lower body temperature and don’t provide enough heat for breeding or long-term survival.

What Does a Flea Infestation Look Like?

The irritated, excessively scratching family pet is the most apparent tale-tell sign your home is under flea attack. Unfortunately, you can deal with flea infestation without having a pet. Bites are the most obvious sign you are dealing with fleas. Flea bites appear on feet, ankles, and legs but can occur elsewhere.

It’s worth noting, however, that red, itchy bites on your body could be a sign of bed bugs rather than fleas. You can distinguish flea bites from bed bug bites by the darkness of the rash around the wound and the presence of a scab in the centre.

If you suspect your home is infested, don’t hesitate to call us. Our professional exterminator will inspect your home and verify whether the property needs a flea treatment or a different form of pest control.