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 500 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.
Best Vet-Recommended Flea Combs
When choosing a flea comb, make sure to pick one that is suitable for your dog’s coat length and consider whether you want to use a manual one or an electric one. Below are some high-quality flea combs that are recommended by veterinarians.
All featured products are chosen at the discretion of the author. However, Great Pet Care may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Best Overall Flea Comb
Our Pick: Safari Dog Flea Comb
This affordable flea comb has two rows of teeth to ensure you don’t leave any flea debris behind! It works on most dog breeds and can cater to different coat lengths. It offers a comfortable, easy-grip handle which makes coming for fleas—dare we say it—a pleasant experience. It comes in two options—one for long coats and one for short coats. This is also a top flea comb for cats, so it’s a great option if you have both canine and feline family members in your home.
Best Flea Comb for Multi-Dog Households
Our Pick: Gnawrishing Flea Comb Set
This combo pack has different lengths and combs for all dogs in your household. There are both stainless steel and non-toxic plastic materials that are durable and non-toxic. This is a great value set, costing less than $10. Plus, the company offers a money-back guarantee and will refund the purchase price if you’re unhappy or replace any damaged comb free of charge.
Best Flea Comb for Long-Haired Dogs
Our Pick: SENTRY Flea Comb for Dogs
This flea comb is a great pick for dogs with longer coats, since the teeth are longer than those on some other flea combs. This simply designed comb offers an ergonomic handle for comfortability and it’s pretty durable. Just make sure to brush out mats or knots before using this comb, since snags can cause the teeth to bend.
Best Flea Comb for Short-Haired Dogs
The teeth on this flea comb are on the shorter side, making it an easy-to-use option for dogs with short-to-medium coats. The size is small enough to use on smaller breeds like Chihuahuas and it features a contoured grip handle that is comfortable to hold and feels sturdy in your hand. We also like this as an on-the-go option due to its smaller size. It’s easy to put in a pocket or a dog walking fanny pack!
Best Electric Flea Comb
Our Pick: Flea Doctor Electric Flea Comb
This cordless, electric flea comb features a harmless electric current to help kill fleas on contact. It does require 2 AA batteries, which are not included in the packaging. The handle features a non-slip grip and close-together stainless steel teeth to help pull flea and flea debris off your dog. It does make a beeping sound every few minutes, which may take some getting used to for some dogs.
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.