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How to Identify Fleas & Lice

By Kathryn Hatter ; Updated July 27, 2017

Although flea and lice infestations may seem similar in nature, both infestations have fundamental differences. While fleas target animals, feeding on their blood, lice feed on human blood, laying eggs in the hair closest to the scalp. When you have a flea or lice infestation in your home, careful eradication and cleaning is important to rid your home, your family and your pets of these tiny parasites. Identify fleas and lice as the first step to removing them.

Fleas

Look at your pet’s skin through the hair to see if you find skin irritations or allergic reactions to the fleas. Often a pet’s skin may appear red, irritated and broken from itching the areas where the fleas congregate. Fleas usually choose the neck area, ear area and hindquarters to infest. You may also find tiny black flea feces in your pet’s fur.

Examine your pet for the fleas themselves. Fleas are generally between 1 and 2 mm long and they appear red or brown.

Watch the behavior of the fleas. Fleas do not fly, but instead they jump very quickly to move around.

Lice

Examine the scalp, looking for evidence of lice. Adult lice are 1/10-inch to 1/8-inch long and immature lice are smaller. Lice are light gray or tan in color. The most prevalent spots for lice to congregate are behind the ears and at the nape of the neck. Use the fine comb to work through the hair carefully, looking for evidence of lice.

Watch the behavior of the lice. Lice do not fly or jump, but instead they crawl fast along the scalp and through the hair.

Look for oval eggs attached to the hair shafts near the scalp. The lice eggs are white while they are very young and then as they mature, they gradually turn brown.

Check for lice feces along with the lice. Lice feces are black and you will find them on the scalp.

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