How to Use a Flea Comb for Dogs

Sarah Wooten, DVM
By Sarah Wooten, DVM on Nov. 16, 2018
How to Use a Flea Comb for Dogs

Is your dog itching and scratching? There is a good chance that dog fleas are the culprit. If your dog has fleas, getting the fleas off your dog will not only help your dog feel better, but will also lower your dog’s chances of suffering from health issues caused by fleas, like flea allergy dermatitis or a Bartonella infection.

If your dog is playing host to these annoying blood-sucking parasites, then a dog flea comb is a great tool to use in conjunction with anti-parasite treatments to aid you in your fight against flea bites.

Read on to learn how to get rid of dog fleas with a flea comb.

What Is a Flea Comb?

A flea comb is a handheld grooming tool that offers an affordable and nontoxic way to detect and remove fleas from your dog. A flea comb has very finely spaced teeth, and as you brush your dog with a flea comb, the comb collects fleas, flea eggs and flea dirt.

What Is Flea Dirt?

Flea dirt is the digested blood that fleas leave behind, and it’s a telltale sign of fleas. Flea dirt looks like dirt or coffee grounds. It can be differentiated from regular dirt by placing it on a wet paper towel. If it is flea dirt, it will leave red streaks on the paper towel.

Flea combs offer an especially good way to remove fleas from very small dogs, very young dogs or dogs that have sensitivities to flea treatments or flea shampoo. There are several effective flea combs available, including Safari double row flea comb for dogs and JW pet gripsoft flea comb. Flea combs with metal teeth tend to last longer.

Where Should I Use a Flea Comb?

When you use a flea comb on your dog, you may accidentally knock off fleas or flea eggs—and trust me, you do not want fleas or flea eggs in your house or on your furniture! I recommend combing your dog outside or in a bathtub; that way, if you do knock off any fleas, they won’t infest your home.

Flea combing in the bathtub is nice because you can wash anything you comb off down the drain, or you can wash your dog with a flea shampoo afterwards, like Sentry flea and tick oatmeal Hawaiian ginger dog shampoo. I also recommend dipping your comb into water that has a small amount of dish detergent to drown any fleas or flea eggs you may find.

How to Use a Flea Comb for Dogs

Flea combing can be a wonderful bonding experience if done correctly. Try pairing the combing with praise, dog treats and maybe playtime afterwards. I recommend starting at your dog’s head and then working your way towards the tail, leaving no patch of fur uncombed.

Comb in the direction of the fur, and dunk the comb into the water after every couple of strokes to remove any fleas or eggs that have been trapped. Fleas like to hide in armpits, near the groin area, around the neck, at the base of the ear, and around the base of the tail.

If your dog has mats, I find it effective to have those trimmed away before combing, or your comb will just get stuck, and it will irritate your dog.


How Often Should I Flea Comb My Dog?

The answer to this question varies. If you live in an area where fleas are common, then you may need to comb a couple of times a week, or in some cases, daily!

If fleas are only a seasonal problem and your dog doesn’t seem to be itching, then try combing once a week during the warmer months. Fleas can’t survive cold temperatures, but they can survive inside warm homes, even during the winter.

It is also a good idea to comb your dog for fleas after he visits an area that is frequented by other dogs or wildlife, such as open-space areas, dog parks, doggy daycare or boarding facilities.

Help, I’m Finding Fleas Every Time I Comb! What Should I Do?

Sometimes, flea combing is not enough to control fleas. If you are constantly finding fleas on your dog, then you need to launch an all-out assault on these blood suckers. Most times, this requires a multi-pronged approach of flea killing, stopping flea reproduction, and removing all flea eggs and fleas from the environment.

Remember—the adult fleas you are finding on your dog are only the tip of the iceberg and usually represent a much bigger problem. A single female flea can lay 40 eggs every day, and these eggs can hide in couch cushions, dog bedding and carpets.

If you find that your dog is constantly infested, then you will need to treat the home and/or yard for flea infestations daily for a couple of weeks until all flea eggs hatch. I recommend vacuuming daily for a couple of weeks to catch any flea eggs that might be hiding in carpet.

I also recommend vacuuming under couch cushions and washing your pet’s bedding in hot water at least every other day for two to three weeks. You may also need to treat the yard if your dog is getting infested from wildlife—fleas like to hide in piles of leaves, in mulch and under decks.

In these cases, I also recommend combining flea combing with flea-killing anti-parasite products such as flea and tick prescription pills for dogs and a flea collar, like the Seresto 8 month flea and tick collar. I also recommend using Sentinel flavor tablets, which contain an insect growth regulator that stops immature fleas from developing into blood-sucking adults.

Combining these strategies for four to six weeks usually eliminates most flea infestation problems. If you are following all the rules and still having flea problems, consult your veterinarian for additional strategies to keep your dog flea-free.

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Sarah Wooten, DVM


Sarah Wooten, DVM


Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists,...

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