What Are Flea Combs for Dogs?

Jamie Lovejoy, DVM
By Jamie Lovejoy, DVM on Apr. 30, 2024
woman brushes fluffy dog with flea comb to check for fleas on dog.

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When looking at grooming products for your dog, you may come across a flea comb. Though flea combs are often too fine to efficiently comb out your dog’s fur, they can significantly help with parasite diagnosis and prevention when used appropriately.

What Are Flea Combs for Dogs?

The tines (teeth) of a flea comb are usually flat and have very narrow spacing between them. This allows the comb to go all the way to the skin on a single pass and scoop up both fleas and their droppings, called flea dirt.

While combing fleas alone is not effective parasite management (as it only affects adult fleas), combs can be useful in decreasing the adult flea load in small puppies and kittens.

This is especially important, as these animals are at risk of blood loss due to their small size.

They can also help pet parents and veterinarians look for fleas hiding deeper in the haircoat that could be contributing to allergies and itchiness.

While combing fleas alone is not effective parasite management (as it only affects adult fleas), combs can be useful in decreasing the adult flea load in small puppies and kittens.

Using a flea comb to eliminate adult fleas on an adult animal is not practical, as fleas can move out of the way easily on larger pets.

Do You Need a Flea Comb?

Veterinarians have flea combs in their offices, but having a flea comb at home can be very useful. That’s because even the most dedicated pet parent with the cleanest home is at risk for a flea infestation (fleas prefer clean surroundings).

Flea combing can help you monitor your pet for improvement in a flea infestation as you treat them. If your treatment is working, you should find fewer adult fleas.

Routine flea combing can also be helpful during normal grooming to catch issues before they start.

If your dog is on routine flea prevention and you are finding fleas or flea droppings, you can discuss how to improve your preventative program with your veterinarian.

This is particularly helpful with dogs who are prone to allergies and skin infections, as fleas can disrupt their recovery.

How To Use Your Dog’s Flea Comb

Using a flea comb is a straightforward process. Combing is easiest on dry, recently groomed hair. You’ll want to comb gently but firmly in long strokes, being sure to keep the end of the comb as close to the skin as possible to grab any fleas hanging out there.

Try to be systematic in your approach to combing your pet’s entire body.

While fleas can be anywhere, you may want to make multiple passes behind the ears, in the armpits and groin, and at the base of the tail. These are places where fleas love to settle.

If live fleas are found, be sure to submerge them in water immediately —this prevents them from jumping away.

Because adult fleas can jump great distances, sometimes the only clue to a flea infestation on a comb will be flea dirt. Flea dirt is actually digested blood that is left behind in their droppings after fleas feed.

Flea dirt can be difficult to distinguish from regular dirt at first glance. If in doubt, place the material on a clean paper towel and then wet the towel. Flea dirt will leave red streaks from the digested blood.

The Best Flea Combs for Dogs

Metal flea combs for dogs are the most durable and easiest to keep clean.

The tines should be close together but not sharp. Find a comb that is comfortable for you to hold. Some pet parents will prefer a longer handle while others prefer a more compact grip.

Make sure that the length of the tines can get all the way through your dog’s fur. Dogs with a double coat and long hair may benefit from a comb with longer tines.

Even then, you may still have to part their hair in sections to get through the fur and reach the skin.

Jamie Lovejoy, DVM


Jamie Lovejoy, DVM


Dr. Jamie Lovejoy graduated from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2012 after an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology. ...

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