Fleas are the most common external parasites that are found on dogs, but these tiny pests are tough to spot on your dog’s coat, since they are only about 1-2mm in length. A flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day, which then roll off your dog (host), hatch into larvae and burrow into the environment including carpets, dog beds, baseboards, and furniture.
That’s why it is so important to use a flea comb for dogs to check for any infestations.
What is a Flea Comb for Dogs?
A flea comb is a specialized tool that helps find and get rid of fleas on dogs and other pets. The comb has finely spaced teeth that can pick up and remove fleas, flea eggs, and flea dirt that traditional brushes can’t. Flea dirt is adult flea feces that shows up as tiny dark specs, almost like small coffee grounds, on your pet’s skin and fur.
Types of Flea Combs
There are a few different types of flea combs available to pet parents. These include traditional manual flea combs and electric flea combs.
Manual flea combs work just like any other comb and a pet parent will need to drag the grooming tool over their dog’s coat in order to pick up any fleas or flea eggs. Manual combs are relatively small, able to fit in your pocket or bag, which is great to use on the go after hiking, beach days, and dog parks to remove any fleas before you head home.
Electric flea combs release a mild electrical charge that kills fleas and their eggs on contact. The charge will not harm your pet. These combs are bulkier than traditional flea combs because they require a battery. Some electric flea combs do make a beeping sound, which may startle some dogs.
Flea combs also come in different materials. Most often, you’ll find plastic and metal or stainless steel options. Many people prefer not to use plastic ones, as the teeth can break off when stressed too hard.
If your dog has a longer coat, flea combs with longer teeth can help the comb move through their fur easier, while removing fleas, flea eggs, and flea dirt. Flea combs with shorter-length teeth are best used in dogs with short coats.
The bottom line is to look for a flea comb that has very small spaces between the teeth, so it can comb out and remove fleas. If the spaces between the teeth of the comb are too wide, then it could leave live fleas, flea eggs, and flea dirt behind on your dog.
How to Use a Flea Comb
Using a flea comb—whether you choose a manual or electric one—is easy. However, it’s important to take a few steps before and during the combing process. Here are some tips for successfully using a flea comb on your dog.
Step 1: Set up an area in the house or an outdoor spot where you can easily vacuum or clean after flea combing your dog. You can lay down a towel or pee pads to catch any fleas, flea eggs, and flea debris.
Step 2: Before using the flea comb, carefully brush out or remove any mats from your dog’s coat. This way the comb can easily move through their fur, without causing irritation when tugging on mats or knots.
Step 3: To get started move the comb gently through your dog’s fur, starting at the head and moving towards the tail. Be sure to comb multiple times through your pet’s coat, concentrating on the neck, belly, and around the tail base where fleas tend to congregate.
Step 4: For manual combs, after every few strokes dunk the comb in the bowl of warm water and remove debris off the comb with paper towels. You may see some live fleas, so the water will help to kill them. Electric combs can be wiped off with a paper towel. The fleas should already be dead due to the electric current.
Step 5: When you are finished, remove the towel or pee pad you used and wash or throw them away to prevent flea reinfestation. Vacuum the area thoroughly, and be sure to wash and clean anything that was used during your flea combing session.
Bonus Tip: It helps to make this process fun for your dog. Have a few high-value dog treats or a toy on hand to keep them entertained while you comb them. You can also use a lick mat and smear it with dog-safe peanut butter or plain pumpkin as a way to keep them still and occupied.
Treating Fleas on Dogs: A Multi-Step Approach
Combing your dog’s coat for fleas is a great way to keep these pesky parasites at bay, but treating and getting rid of fleas takes diligence and different methods. Depending on where you live and your activities, you may need to use a flea comb multiple times a week.
But when it comes to preventing a flea infestation, prevention is key. Use your comb to check for fleas after time spent outdoors in the backyard or when returning from hikes or the dog park. Vacuum areas in your home that your dog frequents, especially corners of the room and carpets. Wash bedding, toys, and blankets to remove any fleas and flea eggs, and bathe your dog if you do find fleas with your flea comb.
It’s also important to talk to your veterinarian about flea prevention medication for the best year-round flea protection.