What Is Flea Dirt And What Does It Look Like?

Summary: Flea dirt is actually flea poop that is made up of dried blood. They look like tiny dots (usually black in color) and are a sure sign that fleas are on your pet or around their living areas. They are commonly found on the tummy and on the tail. Fleas need to be dealt with immediately to prevent health risks and you also need to take preventative measures to try and keep fleas away.

Fleas can be difficult to deal with, especially during the warmer months when they are the most active. However, there are a few signs of fleas that you can keep an eye out for if you want to stop a potential flea problem dead in its tracks. One of the biggest give away that your poor pet has a bad case of fleas is the flea dirt that can be found on your dog or cats hair. Lets take a few moments to learn how to properly find it, identify it and work out an effective solution for getting rid of the fleas and their dirt in a safe and thorough manner. If you have questions, please leave a comment below the article :)

Flea Dirt Identification – What Is Exactly Is It?

Basically, this type of “dirt” is old blood and feces that is left behind when fleas feed on your pet. This dry blood gives them a “black” appearance on skin or hair. If you touch it, it will feel slightly “grainy”, much like fine sand. Gross I know! They are usually about half a millimeter in length and they leave little marks that are often described as looking like:

  1. Black pepper
  2. Tiny Black Dots
  3. Black Specks
  4. Dog or cat “dandruff” that is dark in appearance
  5. Small tar colored “flakes”
flea dirt

Pictures of Flea Dirt

Regardless of how you see it, if you find something like that on your pet, it definitely deserves some attention. How so? Well flea dirt indicates the presence of fleas. While you may not find any fleas upon first inspection, remember that there may be flea eggs already laid on your pet and secondly, there is a good chance that the flea jumped to safety before you could notice it feeding on your pet. Since fleas pose a health risk to your pet, you need to take action as soon as possible. I will go into more detail on this subject a little later.

Many people have asked how to tell the difference between dirt from fleas and just normal dirt that may be picked up from the garden or surrounding areas. If you have wondered this before, it’s actually a very good question as incorrect diagnosis can potentially cost you money unnecessarily. Also, if you find this dirt, you may also want to invest in a monthly treatment product to keep your pets flea free but please do not use a flea collar for dogs or cats as these can be very dangerous. Products such as Frontline and Advantage are very good and are worth their price tag. Here are a few ways to check if the “dirt” that you see is actually flea excrement:

  1. Take a paper towel (toilet paper or cotton balls should be fine as well) and put a very small about of water on it. Gently rub your pets fur where you think there may be flea poo and if it appears a reddish brown color (on the paper), its highly likely that its flea poo.
  2. Another way to check is to do use a comb to brush some of the “dirt” off your dog or cats fur and onto a white surface. Once you have collected a bit, also apply a few drops of water and see if the color changes into the same, red stain from the digested blood.

Remember, if you pets enjoy swimming or live outside, remember that the dirt may look like brown-red streaks that are created from flea waste when it comes into contact with moisture (dew, rain, etc.)

Where Can You Find Flea Dirt?

While fleas are not be too picky about the areas of residence, there are a few places where they are known to congregate. Its in your best interest to know these places so that you have a good idea where to start looking. Here are the steps that I personally follow:

  1. The first thing I usually do is check for this dirt on my pets on bedding, unless I actually notice the dirt on my dog or cats fur first of course. Remember to use the “water technique” to check if it turns that red brown color. In fact, it’s a good idea to check this area from time to time to see if there is a bigger flea problem waiting to happen. Also, if you see your pet scratching continuously, its very possible that there may already be a flea infestation in the house so try and keep an eye out for this dirt (and signs of fleas) on a weekly basis.
  2. Secondly, I would spend some time inspecting my dogs and cats fur, regardless of whether I find the dirt in their sleeping areas. I do this by pushing the fur apart to ensure that I don’t miss anything. Sometimes you may even see the fleas, unless there are very few. Pay extra attention to the belly area and on the back of the tail. Other common places include the paws (especially if its an outdoor pet) and under the arms (or technically, its legs :))

If You Have Found This Dirt on Your Pet, What Are the Risks?

Despite their size, fleas consume a large amount of blood, especially if there is a large amount of them. While its rather rare and only a result of a terrible flea problem, this can result in anemia. Also, since larvae uses this dried blood to sustain them during their life cycle, its in your best interests to get rid of both the fleas and their dirt as soon as possible. If you have been bitten or your pets are suffering from a large amount of flea bites, its recommended that you seek professional help.

What Should You Do Next to Remedy the Situation?

As we have found out so far, learning how to remove flea dirt and fleas requires some work. Its much easier to prevent flea problems then trying to solve them. I presume that you have visited this article because you have a fleas on your pets so lets look at a few things that you can do about it:

  1. Firstly, give your home a good vacuum and wash any clothes that you think may have come into contact with fleas.
  2. Next, use a flea spray with an insect growth regulator chemical to stop the flea life cycle. You can use this on your carpets and after checking with your vet, you can even use it in kennels, etc. Here is some more information on the best flea treatments for your dogs. I would love to hear your thoughts and you have any questions on this guide, please feel free to contact me :)
  3. Lastly, after giving your pet a good wash with flea shampoo (watch out for the claws and death stares if you have a cat) to kill their adult fleas that may be in their fur, perhaps to hide from your wrath.

WARNING: Despite what you may have read about natural treatments for fleas on the internet, please never use tea tree oil (or any essential oils for that matter) on cats as it can pose a serious health risk. Please see this article on the best way to get rid of fleas on cats for safe tips.

How Can Flea Dirt Help Me with Proactive Flea Control?

As mentioned, I make a habit of checking various areas for flea as these are signs that things need to be done before the problem gets worse. Here are a few other things that I have made a habit of doing to prevent fleas:

  1. Groom your pets regularly. Not only will this keep your pet looking good but will also help you to spot the dirt from fleas quickly.
  2. Wash your pets blankets once a month. Also look for any flea feces.

Important tip for bitesI have had a few readers contact me about their cats having a major flea problem. Most of them have told me that there didn’t see any evidence of flea dirt but have confirmed that there definitely were fleas on their pet. This is actually very common because cats are known to lick themselves constantly and most of the time, this gets rid of the flea poop. Simply put, just spend some time looking carefully at your pets skin and fur and if there are fleas or their dirt, you will be sure to find them, provided to put in the effort.

In conclusion, checking for this special type of “dirt” is a great way to check if your pet has or had fleas. Of course, if you actually see the fleas, you don’t need to spend any time looking for the poo but if not, its an indication that you need to take steps to protect and help your dog or cat before the flea problem becomes a big issue. Remember, if your flea problem is too big to manage yourself, simply contact an exterminator to help you. In this guide we have discussed how to identify signs of fleas, where you should look and what you can do about it and I hope that its been informative for you. :)

Natasha Anderson

Natasha Anderson

Hi there! My name is Natasha and I would like to thank you for reading this guide. If you have any concerns or would like to ask a question about this article, I encourage you to leave a comment below and I will provide a reliable answer within about 24 hours. Remember, all this information is provided at absolutely no cost and if you have enjoyed what you have read, please show your appreciation by sharing this post on your favorite social network below. I look forward to helping you!
Natasha Anderson
Natasha Anderson
Please note that the contents of this guide is for informational purposes only. If you would like to receive professional advice to diagnose a pest control related problem, please contact your local exterminator immediately.

Comments

  1. Arab Pest Control says:

    Well done Natasha! Great article. Very informative.

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Thanks for the comment! That means alot coming from a reputable pest control company :)

  2. Alex Dizon says:

     This is actually a good article. I thought my dog has only a simple dirt or a compiled thick dust on him and now I am worried =(  Also can I ask a question? Is there a possibility that humans too can get flea dirt? For example, a flea dirt on you over a good night’s sleep? Either way great website! I’ll be following your website from now on =D

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Alex! As this article outlines, you can do a simple water test to check if its flea dirt. I highly recommend taking a few moments to give it a try before presuming that its from fleas. Yes its very possible but for it to happen, fleas would have had to live on the person for awhile and since most people have a regular habit of bathing/showing, etc. (hopefully :P ), its not a very common finding. If there is a flea presence, its usually quick to identify the actual adult fleas instead of looking for their fecal remains.

  3. esther and my babypup says:

    hi i’m Esther from Dublin, Ireland….Someone recommened this post from yahooanswers. People on yahooanswers still have not answered my question…..and I’ve been reading your posts and i have seen black spot but not on my dog….it’s all around the dark corners in my house….what do you think ms. natasha….because if these are really flea dirts then I have to call the flea terminators….Also my dog had recent flea problems….Thanks..

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Esther! Glad to hear that my blog has been recommended, its always a motivation to write more articles lol :) If you are testing for flea dirt, just dap a bit of paper in a little water and rub the area where the dirt can be identified. If it changes to a reddish brown, its highly likely its fleas. You may call an exterminator but also remember that you should make some effort to actually find the adult fleas. For example, if the fleas are only really a problem on your pet, its not going to help to get an exterminator in lol, you would rather take your pet to the vet or purchase a flea removal product. Let me know if you need anymore help :)

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great article! Quick question, are flea dirts contagious? I mean if ever i combed it out from my dog. Is there any possibility that the owner of that pet attracts fleas too? Anyway, a useful post. Thanks for writing something like this. I can use this information to help my friends and family.

    Thank you and good luck in your career.

    Sincerely,
    Wilson

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Wilson! Flea dirt is not contagious, its simply flea poo and other bits of dried blood and skin. While I would recommend washing your hands after being in contact with it, its not going to find its way over to another dog for example. Its very possible for owners to carry fleas into and around the home but fleas generally prefer animal blood. I have written an article on this, you can find it under the “flea” category at the top on this guide.

  5. TBC says:

    Why do you discourage the use of essential oils?

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey TBC! Using essential oils on cats is not recommended as they cannot metabolize it. This makes it highly toxic and can lead to all sorts of complications, even death. Let me know if you need any further information and I will be happy to help you :)

  6. Queenie tolentino says:

    Hey me and my fam are suffering from flea bites! What should we do so itchy? Redbump.

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Queenie! Sorry to hear that you are dealing with a bit of a flea infestation, they are really the worst! Firstly, to ease the itchiness, I recommend using a bit of fresh lemon juice (may sting a little) as this can give you fairly instant relief. As for dealing with the fleas, both on your pets and in the home (and even the yard), I recommend you take a look at a few of my flea articles that are dedicated to this subject as they cover each aspect fully. Find them by visiting the flea category at the top of this blog. If you have any questions after looking through them, I will be more then happy to assist you :)

  7. JoJo says:

    Hi, your article was very direct and understandable. I have a few questions:

    I gave Lotus ( 7 month old wolf dog) a flea bath. She hasn’t had any problems before but all this rain has created a flea breeding paradise.

    I noticed she still has that flea dirt on her. I’m gonna give her comfortis today (she was using front line.

    My question is : is the dirt harmful? I’m scared to give her another bath, she has very sensitive skin beneath her second coat.

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey JoJo! Sorry for my delayed response, been having internet issues recently :( Anyways, appreciate your kind words, they mean a lot! Flea dirt is not harmful at all and I recommend giving her a wash with a lemon based dishing soap and warm water. Not only can this kill fleas, remove the dirt and leave her coat shiny and clean, it also shouldn’t cause any skin irritation :)

  8. Katie Jayne says:

    Hi Natasha, thanks for your v helpful article. Found it whilst googling for more info. I wonder if I could ask your advice? Had been treating my cat for fleas but then started finding flea dirt on him. Found a couple of dead fleas in the house but never any on him. We treated our whole house with a flea spray and gave him a spot on 5 days ago. But still now finding flea dirt on his bedding despite all that! Do you think that means he still has fleas? Am at a real loss as to what to do now! Thanks again in advance. Best wishes, Katy

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Katie! Its a pleasure, glad you have found it useful. To be honest, I think that it may just be leftovers from when he had fleas. Alternatively, are you 100% sure its flea dirt and not just regular dirt? I recommend putting some of it on some white paper, applying a few drops of water and smearing it to check it turns into a reddish brown, that’s how you can immediately tell the difference :)

      • Katie Jayne says:

        Thank you Natasha for your reply! Appreciate your time. It is very definitely flea dirt as I had already done the ‘blood’ test! It’s now a good week since we treated my whole house with Indorex spray and the cat with spot on was at least 10 days ago. BUT he is still dropping flea dirt on to his bedding and has some in his coat each day. He’s showing no signs of an infestation or of itching etc but I find it very strange. And slightly disconcerting as he shares my bed etc! Oh dear. It’s a mystery… Thanks again x

        • Natasha Anderson says:

          Hey Katie! Its a pleasure, glad you have found this information useful :) Its been awhile since we chatted, is everything looking better on your side? Cheers!

  9. Andrea says:

    My dog sleeps in the bed with me and In the mornings I have been noticing what appears to be flea dirt where she sleeps, but I haven’t seen fleas or flea dirt on her. Could this be something else?

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Andrea! Its possible that it is not flea dirt and may just be regular dirt. I recommend that you perform a quick test by placing some of it on a white paper towel, putting a tiny bit of water on it and then seeing if it turns reddish brown when smeared. Let me know how that goes!

  10. Sara says:

    Hi Natasha. Thank you for all of your helpful advice and information. Here’s our situation…we flea bombed the whole house last Wed (August the 7th) and Thurs (the 9th) and also treated our cat (dipped and put on the generic form of Advantage). Our cat seems to be licking and scratching himself alot and I am finding flea dirt. Does this mean he still has fleas? Starting to get VERY PARANOID and wondering if we need to treat the whole house again!

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Sara! Its a pleasure, I am always glad to assist the Bug Squad community. :) Not necessarily, it may just be left over flea dirt from before. If you take a few moments and find no fleas after a close inspection of his fur, there isn’t anything to worry about. Keep an eye on the situation and keep me updated.

      • Sara says:

        Thank you, Natasha. It is now Aug.28th and we are going to do a thorough cleaning once more, just in case, including: Borax on base boards of house, baking soda on carpets, mopping with bleach, and using “Zodiac Spray,” in our vehicles. Do you have any other suggestions for us? It has been exactly 20 days since the first time…

        • Natasha Anderson says:

          Hey Sara! Sounds like you have a good plan in place, I recommend that you follow those steps and I am positive that it will yield good results. If you have any complications or something isn’t working as expected, let me know and I will try and assist you :)

  11. John says:

    That is a really informative article, well written and entertaining. I don’t remember any mention of Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. Are you familiar with that prosuct?

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey John! Thanks for your kind words, they mean a lot to me :) Yes, I am very familiar with it, in fact I have written an entire article on the subject. Check it out and tell me what you think, your review would be awesome! Cheers

  12. Sarah says:

    Hi, my cat got fleas and I found out when I saw a lot of red spots near her bedding. And flea dander on her. I took her to the vet got her treated. Treated my home and then got her bathed to get rid of dander. Now I want to a buy a flea treatment to do once a month to keep fleas out. I used sentry and it gave her a bald patch the area that I applied it. (she’s a long haired Persian cat) I really can’t afford to spend large amounts on flea treatment what can you recommend? I want reliable yet safe. Frequent vet trips and frontline isn’t affordable. Thanks :-)

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Sarah! My personal recommendation is Advantage. Its a little cheaper then Frontline, lasts a little longer (in my experience) and works extremely well. If you want continueous protection for your Persian cat, get the monthly package as you will save a ton of cash and the spot on will last 30 days. Good luck!

  13. Sarah says:

    My yorkie has what I’ve suspected for awhile may be flea dirt as I haven’t found another possible explanation as to what else it could be. It is suspended in her hair and seems to be a sticky substance mainly in her armpits and on her legs. I’ve had her to the vet & he says it’s not fleas. The paper towel test did not turn red. Do you know what else it could be or should I treat it as fleas? Would you suggest a second opinion or should it be fairly easy for a vet to identify? Thanks for any info & suggestions you may offer!

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Sarah! It could just be regular dirt from outside. If its not turning reddish when water is applied, this is probably the case and then there is nothing to worry about. I recommend using a flea comb to triple check for any fleas and if you don’t find anything, just forget about it. Hope that helps!

  14. Hannah says:

    Hi. I adopted my dog three weeks ago from a rescue shelter. I saw a flea on her the first day we got her and then two of them two weeks after that which is when I gave her a bath with flea shampoo and then a couple days later used frontline plus. I have also been trying to treat my house vacuuming and washing like a crazy person. However I still consistently find what may be flea dirt where she lays. I do the water test and it dosnt seem to change but some of it looks orangy brown to begin with and it seems like a lot to just coming from the environment . I have been checking her skin like crazy but don’t see anything and I haven’t seen a flea since last week before we started treating. Though she still seems very itchy. Do I still have fles or am I just being parinoid? Also do you have a picture of wet flea dirt so I can compare?
    Thank you!!

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Hannah! To be honest, based on your description, its probably not flea dirt so there is nothing to worry about. I don’t have any images (I will snap a few when I get a chance) but my suggestion is to just keep an eye out for any flea developments and you will be fine. Good luck!

  15. Chris thieroff says:

    I never see the fleas, dogs don’t scratch, had treatment by Terminex plus washed everything and within an hour saw the flea dirt in the bed! Any suggestions?

    Update: How long after flea treatment for the house and dogs could you still find the dirt? We did the water test and it is “dirt”

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Chris! I presume you mean that it is “flea dirt”. To be honest, it will stay around until its cleaned up, remember its just flea feces so its not going to just disappear by itself. ;) Also something to consider, have you checked your bed for bed bugs? They can also leave similar “dirt” and it also turns reddish brown when you do a water test. Let me know! :)

  16. Bee says:

    Great article! I am so glad I found your website. I am here because for the first time in 9 years my little guy (pomeranian) has fleas/had a flea. I made sure to be so diligent about his flea prevention but slacked the past two months. I found one flea on him IMMEDIATELY gave him a flea bath (saw the flea floating in the water). After giving him the bath I went to check my bed and everywhere he slept I saw little black specs, after taking you advice is now know they are flea dirt. I’ve only ground one flea on him, should I worry and hire a professional? Does the flea dirt indicate an infestation in my home?

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Bee! I am glad as well ;) You definitely do not need to call a professional at this stage, just keep an eye out for fleas and grab yourself a flea comb. You can use this once a week to check for fleas and take immediate steps if you find any. I have an article on this subject, check it out to learn how to use one effectively. Cheers!

  17. katie says:

    Hi Natasha very helpful article but im still having a bit of trouble figuring out if my puppy has fleas…i found a little black bug jumping on him last night it really freaked me out and didnt help my ocd…i washed him with dawn dish soap and bought a flea comb i searched and could not find anything (not even black spots thankfully) i have been seeing white specs on his coat and on the comb the water i rinsed the comb off in was clear i wash mine and bedding often …he has been taking sentinel monthly and im not sure what my next should be…should ibget advantage or front line He has never taken it thank you very much for any suggestions

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Katie! I suggest you grab yourself a flea comb. They are really cheap and you can use it on your pet to check for fleas. If you don’t find any, you really do not need to stress about anything :) Just keep an eye out for them and use the comb weekly and you (and your pet) will be fine!

      • katie says:

        Thank you i have been using the flea comb and have not seen anything
        ..i think we are in the clear i just have one other question is there any other preventable measure i could take because we live in a dog friendly building with a dog park that could help prevent fleas thanks again

        • Natasha Anderson says:

          Hey Katie! That is good news, glad you don’t have a flea infestation on your hands ;) My personally recommendation is to use that flea comb at least once a week. This will help you to proactively detect fleas before they become a problem.

  18. RB says:

    Hello there, my cats recently had fleas, about 3 weeks ago was when I first noticed. I did a spot on treatment for both of my cats that seemed to do okay, but a few days later I still found fleas on them. I also bought some spray with an IGR and sprayed all of my home. Then vacuumed like crazy. On top of that I also washed anything that I could. If I couldnt wash it them I sprayed it with the IGR spray. I did two treatments like this two weeks apart. The last one I did was about 5 days ago. I have also been flea combing them daily as well as vacuuming daily, if not every other day. I have also been washing my bedding and vaccuming my mattress. So here are my questions : 1. Is there anything I should do other than what I have done to make sure the fleas are gone. 2. I’ve been flea combing my cats quite frequently, I am still finding fleas, BUT no flea dirt. What does that mean? It’s confusing to find fleas but no flea dirt. 3. I am also having a hard time figuring out how big my infestation is. Is there a way to test that? I would do the water dish, light and soap, but I am afraid my cats will drink the soapy water and get sick. I think these are all my questions for now. Part of me thinks that I am being paraniod, but I’d rather get another opinion. Thank you for your time, I look forward to your response.

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey RB! You have done a great job and I personally feel that by simply using a spot on treatment on your cat, everything will be sorted. There isn’t always flea dirt, it usually only appears when the fleas have been around for a long time so don’t stress about that. To test the size of a flea infestation, use my flea trap guide (on this blog) as it will give you a good idea as to how many there are in your home.

      • RB says:

        Natasha,
        Thank you so much for your response. I think it’s safe to say that I am little overzealous. But only because fleas give me the creepy crawlies.This whole thing has been really stressful and I am happy that I am taking the right steps to deal with this. That being said I want to thank you for having all of this helpful information online. It really helps! About that flea trap though, will my cats drink the soapy water in it? I don’t want to get them sick. That is my main concern. But maybe I’m underestimating my cats. I am also going to continue their spot on treatment for a couple more months just to be sure I will look for the flea trap guide and try that tonight. . Again, thank you for your time and your insight. It is greatly appreciated.

        • Natasha Anderson says:

          Hey RB, its an absolute pleasure! Its possible, might be worth your while to keep your cats out of the room where the traps are, just to be safe. Thanks for visiting and please consider sharing this guide with your friends ;)

  19. Terri says:

    I have a question about the flea dirt. How do you get rid of it off there stomachs after the fleas are gone?

    • Natasha Anderson says:

      Hey Terri! You just use water, don’t need to purchase anything expensive. For quicker results, use some dish washing liquid (such as Dawn) in the water and it will get rid of it.

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