How to Tell the Difference Between Lice & Fleas

By Melodie Anne

Lice aren’t as common as fleas, but they cause similar symptoms, including excessive itching and hair loss, so telling the difference can be difficult. Check certain areas of your furry comrade’s body. Lice and fleas look and move differently. Because both types of critters can lead to disease, take your pet to the veterinarian at the first sign of infestation for proper treatment.

Color and Mobility

Close-up of lice on a dog

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Lice are very light white to yellow; fleas appear dark or almost black. Usually lice attach themselves to individual hair follicles and tend to stay in the same spot. Fleas, on the other hand, migrate around. You’ll see them moving on your pet’s skin.

Where to Spot Them

Woman scratching dog's belly

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Both lice and fleas like to gather in areas where your fuzzy buddy can’t get them. Lice like to perch around his ears, neck, shoulders and rear end, so look for them in these spots. Fleas don’t like to be exposed to light. They prefer to make a home along the underside of your pal’s body. Look for fleas along his inner thighs and belly.

Leftover Dirt

Child combing dog's fur

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Fleas leave behind fecal matter, known as flea dirt, while they’re grazing. Comb through your pet’s fur with a flea comb to collect this excrement. Wipe the comb on a wet paper towel afterward. If you see tiny red or rust-color speckles, it's a flea infestation -- the red color in the excrement is your dog's blood, digested and excreted by the flea.