Everything you need to know about fleas

Updated 09 May 2024
Read time: 4 mins
article author
Written by Elle Padgham
Lead Copywriter
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Dealing with fleas is every pet owner’s worst nightmare. Left unchecked they can wreak havoc on our pets, our home and our health.

We asked the experts at Itch to give us the lowdown on fleas. Read on to find out about what they are, where they come from, and most importantly, how you can get one up on fleas once and for all.

What are fleas?

There’s more to fleas than just making our dogs itchy.

They’re tiny, blood-sucking parasites, who survive by sucking the blood of other mammals. They have long legs (perfect for jumping) and can range from light brown to black in colour. An adult flea can be from 1 to 4 mm long. 

There are thought to be over 2,500 species of flea in the world. The most common flea in the UK is the ‘Ctenocephalides Felis’ (the ‘Cat Flea’). But don’t be fooled by its name! It will also happily use a dog as its host.

How do fleas get onto my dog?

The most common way your dog picks up fleas is when an adult flea hops on from the environment - the garden, the park, the pub…. Nowhere is safe.

If your dog is more of a homebody than a wild wanderer, unfortunately they’re still at risk. Fleas can infiltrate your home by ‘hitch-hicking’ on your shoes and clothing (they’re sneaky!).

The truth is, fleas are all over the place, and avoiding them is nearly impossible. The best thing you can do is to make sure your dog is always armed against them with monthly parasite protection, such as Itch flea.

How do I know if my dog has fleas?

Noticed your dog having a good ol’ scratch? It might be time to check for fleas.

Incorporating a flea comb into your pet's regular brushing routine is perhaps the easiest way to do this. As well as taking the opportunity to check your dog's skin for fleas (you should be able to spot the little blighters), some of them will be captured in the fine tooth comb.

It’s important to note that excessive scratching or chewing could also be caused by an allergy, such as Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD). This is the most common allergic skin disease in dogs and is caused by an allergy to flea saliva.

If you notice your dog’s hair falling out or if their skin is red and/or bleeding, seek advice from your vet.

Why do I need to protect my dog against fleas?

Fleas can make your dog's life a down-right misery, thanks to the itchiness they cause.

As well as FAD, Fleas are partners in crime with tapeworms. 

If your pet accidentally eats a flea, that flea could be a host for tapeworms too - meaning your pet is infected. Tapeworms can also infect and make people very poorly (especially young children).

Humans can catch fleas too, right? Not exactly! Humans can’t catch fleas, but they can still be bitten, and infected with the diseases fleas carry such as ‘Baronella’ or ‘cat scratch disease’. 

What do I do if I spot a flea?

Firstly, you need to determine if the fleas you can see are alive or dead. A good way to test for this is to use the ‘damp cotton wool’ test.

Run a piece of damp cotton wool over your pet’s fur. If the dirt turns red, the fleas ain’t dead - and you need to move quickly before things get out of hand.

Your pet is ultimately where fleas will end up, but 95% of them live in your home first. Treat your pet and your home to get on top of the problem:

  • Treat your home first. Only treating your pet and not your home is like shovelling snow while it’s still snowing… pointless. You need to tackle the source of the existing infestation first, or you’ll soon find yourself right back at square one again. 

Wash all of your soft furnishings on a hot wash, hoover like there’s no tomorrow and invest in a decent household flea spray to help quickly eradicate fleas in one, swift swoop.

  • Treat your pet. Once you’ve treated your home, make sure to treat your pet with a specialist flea treatment, like Itch Flea. This will take care of any fleas living on your pet, and any newbies that try to hop on to them for a full month afterwards.

How do I prevent my dog from getting fleas in the first place?

As the saying goes, prevention is so much better than cure. 

Avoiding fleas is a virtually impossible task, and so it’s important you treat your dog once a month with a gold standard flea treatment like Itch Flea.

Itch Flea's double action, spot-on treatment kills adult fleas within 24 hours, halts all other flea life stages in their tracks and stops any new fleas joining the party, protecting your pet until their next monthly treatment. 

Sign up today and get your first month free at

Comments (1)

Very helpful information

Theresa - Apr 18 2024

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