4 min read


Can Dogs Smell Fleas?



4 min read


Can Dogs Smell Fleas?


Let’s talk about fleas. One of the biggest nuisances in a dog’s life are fleas. In case you don’t know already, fleas are tiny parasites that jump on to animals and humans and drink their blood. If your poor pup is scratching, you might want to check them. It could be itchy skin or it might be fleas, sadly. 

Fleas can cause annoyance but also can lead to serious health problems. Your poor pup also can’t do a lot more by themself, other than scratch. So, clearly, your dog can feel fleas, because they’re scratching up a storm, but can they smell them too? That could make it even worse for your already ailing pup!


Signs Your Dog Might Have Fleas

The most important thing to start out doing is identifying the signs of fleas on your pup. A few things you might notice if your pup has fleas are them scratching, ALL of the time. You might also notice your dog licking themself or even biting themself in particular spots. They might also shake themself off a lot. 

Dogs can become very, very agitated with the fleas, Scratching, biting, and licking are really the only thing they can do to help themselves since they can’t go buy flea medicine, apply the medicine, or call their vet. So, they’re depending on you!

Some other signs you might notice are things on your dog’s body. According to Pet MD, you might even be able to see the fleas jumping on and off of your dog. Pets Web MD also points out that dogs can lose hair, get hot spots, pale gums, or even have an allergic reaction to flea bites. Fleas can also jump onto humans! That's right, you can get them, too. So, if you notice any signs of fleas, you need to nip it in the bud immediately.

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice if your dog has fleas:

  • Scratching
  • Biting
  • Shake Off
  • Licking

Other Signs

Here are some more serious signs your dog might have fleas:

  • Fleas Jumping Off Your Dog
  • Hair Loss
  • Hot Spots
  • Pale Gums
  • Allergic Reactions

History of Dogs and Fleas


According to, fossils of fleas were found in China that date back to somewhere between 65-250 million years ago. So, they’ve been a nuisance for a long, long time. The fleas of old didn’t have strong hind legs for jumping, but they were five to ten times the size of today’s fleas - which sounds like a nightmare for everyone. 

If that doesn’t make your skin crawl, they also had tougher mouths. So, some scientists think that they might’ve been able to bite through dinosaur skin. Eek!

Fleas of today are much, much smaller (thankfully), but they have evolved to be able to jump onto their hosts. They can cause disease and problems for lots of types of animals, including cats, birds, rodents, dogs, and many more. As mentioned, even you can get fleas. There are too many stories to count about dogs and their flea problems. It’s an incredibly common issue in today’s world.

Science Behind Dogs and Fleas


Scientifically, the fleas are, as mentioned, parasites. So, they live off their host. In this case, they burrow into your dog’s skin and drink their blood. Pets Web MD says fleas can actually consume 15 times their body weight. So, they can move past being just uncomfortable to even causing anemia in dogs. 

This can be a huge problem for any dog, but can be an especially dangerous predicament for puppies. Fleas can jump almost a foot in the air, so they are a force to be reckoned with, even though they are tiny. They also like warmer climates as well as humidity, and they are much more likely to live on your pup if it is an outside dog.

As far as how dogs sense fleas, they can definitely feel them. Dogs have very keen senses of hearing and smell, so one would think that they might be able to smell fleas. However, there is nothing that suggests dogs can see or even smell fleas. This is very surprising, when you think of all the other things dogs can sniff out.

Training Your Dog to Smell Fleas


As far as training your dog to smell fleas, it’s really not possible as far as we know. However, there are some things you can do to prevent fleas from getting on your pup. Cleanliness is super-important when it comes to prevention. So, keep all of your dog’s bedding clean. It might be wise to wash their bedding once a week. Pets Web MD also suggests grooming with a flea comb and spraying for bugs in your yard.

If your dog already has fleas, you need to consult your vet. There are many flea treatment products on the market, but it’s important to know what will work best for your pup. So, talk to your vet, get their recommendation, and treat the fleas with medication. 

As a side note, it’s also important to not touch where you’ve applied some flea medication and keep any young children away from the flea medication. It’s also crucial to make sure that if you have multiple pets, make sure they are all flea free. You might need to treat more than one animal for fleas, or you’ll just be pouring money down the drain on flea medication. 

Fleas will jump off one animal onto another if not taken care of properly. It’s also a good idea to clean your house - when in doubt, wash everything - sheets, rugs, pillows, etc. You can’t be too careful!

So, when all is said and done, dogs can definitely feel fleas, but it doesn’t seem like they can smell them - which might be a good thing. You wouldn’t want a flea infestation to be any more uncomfortable than it already is.

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By Katie Anderson

Published: 05/10/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

Wag! Specialist
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