The best way to detect fleas on the skin of a dog or cat with a thick coat is to run a flea comb through their hair at the skin level. You might pick up fleas on the teeth of the comb, or you may only see small black specks the size of grains of sand, which are the fleas’ droppings. If there is evidence of fleas on your pet, they’ve failed the flea comb test.

Fleas are small (about 1 – 2.5mm in length) and yellowish to dark brown in color depending on whether they have recently fed or not. Fleas’ bodies are flattened from both sides so that their shape from the front appears tall and narrow.

Fleas have no wings and do not fly. The back legs of the flea are very long and strong compared to their other four legs and are designed for jumping. The flea’s back legs are also designed to propel the flea forwards through the animal’s fur at high speed, which helps to evade the teeth and claws of the animal host as it attempts to remove the flea through biting, chewing and scratching. Fleas are very mobile and are usually only seen by pet owners as brief glimpses of something brown scurrying through the animal’s hairs.

At the moment our vets are working their flea combs hard, and finding plenty of fleas! It was a warm winter, so numbers didn’t drop off as much as usual, and now it’s Spring, when fleas and ticks are even more prevalent.

Flea combs are easy to purchase. They look a lot like nit combs. You can use one to check for fleas at home, or to make it more simple, you can just start using a flea prevention product.

The best flea products are usually the most recently released ones. This is because fleas are such tough survivors, that they are extremely good at developing resistance to products that have been around for a while. So don’t get trapped into thinking that rinse you always used on previous pets, will still be the best choice.

“Bravecto” given every 3 months, and “Nexgard” given once a month, are recently released flavoured chews, and very effective products, protecting against both fleas and ticks.

For fleas on cats we recommend “Comfortis” tablets given monthly.

So if you want to get a 100% pass on the flea comb test, don’t neglect the flea treatment!