If your dog spends any time outdoors, it might have fleas. And if they sleep in your bed, on the sofa, or on carpets and rugs, their infestation will soon spread within the household. You may even carry it to school, work, and other homes. But while these jumpy bloodsuckers are common, you’ll see other tiny black bugs on dogs, not fleas. Let’s look at some examples.
Tiny Black Bugs on Dogs not Fleas
You might think you can instantly recognize a spider on your dog. But if the arachnid is the same color as your dog’s fur, you might not notice it. You’ll see silk on the nose of your pooch if s/he goes running through a web. Or you might spot some red, itchy patches on your dog.
But unless there’s a distinct color contrast, it won’t be obvious, so inspect your dog carefully and regularly. Focus on areas that your dog scratches a lot since that’s a sign of irritation. Most spiders are harmless to dogs. You may worry about the bumps or bruises on your dog.
And untangling webs isn’t fun, especially for long-haired dog breeds. But unless the spider is venomous, your dog will be okay. Still, you can avoid bites by getting rid of any webs in your house and avoiding piles of clutter than may invite spiders to spin silk and get comfortable.
Fleas travel in ‘gangs’ and reproduce quickly, so you may need weekly treatments for three to six months before you get rid of them. This process will kill any dormant fleas or newly hatched eggs. Ticks are different because they’re more solitary. Usually, you’ll only find one.
On dogs that live on farms or near forests, there’s more exposure to outdoor pests. Strays and long-haired dog breeds can sometimes host dozens of ticks, especially if you don’t regularly groom the dog. Ticks can range in color from off-white to pink to brown or even black.
They look like pimples so they’re easy to spot on the body, but they can hide in your pet’s ear since the tick’s body resembles some parts of the inner anatomy. Ticks cause diseases in both dogs and humans, so treat your dog with tick repellents and when you spot a tick, remove it!
As humans, we’re fascinated with all the magical things they can do. We’re especially curious about how they communicate. How does a single ant spot some spilled sugar and then magically call its friends to join the feast? Pheromones! The ant scout leaves a scent.
This invisible trail provides directions and instructions for its buddies, so yes, you can find ants on your dog. They may be attracted by food crumbs in the dog’s fur. Or maybe your dog has an injury with an open wound. It may be even simpler if the dog went digging anthills.
Or maybe the dog took a nap next to their travel route. Most ants will just be annoying and itchy, but some species can bite the dog and spit out toxins and trigger allergies. Reaction signs include vomiting, lethargy, or heavy breathing, so call a vet. Otherwise, a bath will do.
4. Dog Lice
In humans, lice are frustrating, prolific, and embarrassing. In dogs, they can cause swelling and hair loss. But the lice that infest dogs aren’t the same species that attack humans, so you can’t pass yours onto your pet or vice versa. But in both cases, the parasites hide in follicles.
Dog lice grab onto hair and fur, as well as beds and grooming items. That’s how they spread. Some chew on dead skin cells while others suck blood. And you can find lice on birds too. A louse can be off-white, tan, or brown, but often looks like a tiny black bug on your dog’s skin.
Their nits (empty egg-shell casings) and the eggs themselves can resemble dandruff. Try using a flea comb to part your dog’s fur so you can spot the lice. Tick and flea treatments and shampoos are effective against dog lice, so apply those once a month and keep the fur neat.
Most humans know better than to play with scorpions. But dogs are pretty playful and love exploring things, so they just might tangle with these pincered pests. Scorpions can be as small as 12mm (0.47 inches) to almost a foot long, so their babies might jump onto your dog.
Scorpions are easily rattled and will bite if they feel threatened, so it’s unlikely this arachnid will sit calmly on your dog’s body. Chances are you’ll hear your puppy howling in pain then see the tell-tale signs of the bite. If you’re in an area known for scorpions, take precautions.
The venom might make your dog tremble and ‘cry’ with watery eyes. The dog might drool, their pupils may dilate, or the dog could even collapse. In such extremes, call the vet quickly! Use an ice pack. If you can, take a photo of the scorpion so it’s easier to identify anti-venom.
We know some humans seem to be mosquito magnets. You might be outdoors with a group of friends and notice the mozzies swarming you while others are mostly unaffected! It’s annoying – and scientific. Something about carboxylic acid levels and skin bacteria biomes.
For dogs though, mosquitoes present a different problem. When they bite your dog, they might spread heartworm larvae. These parasites can then move to your dog’s heart and lungs where they can harm and even kill your dog. Make sure your dog gets anti-heartworm meds.
Examples include ivermectin (yes, that one), and your vet can administer it every month. But on a more practical level, get rid of any stagnant water, clutter, or bushes where mosquitoes can breed. You can also install bug zappers and check for litter than can accumulate puddles.
7. Bees and Wasps
Bees are pretty easy to identify when they’re buzzing around your head or zooming into your fizzy drink. But they can sometimes look like tiny black bugs on dogs, especially if they’re not moving. From a distance, you’ll only see the wings and the darker bits. Same goes for wasps.
If the bee or wasp was attracted by something sweet or fatty on your dog’s skin, the bug won’t sting. But dogs can be pretty restless, so they might jump around or paw at the spot where the insect perched. That’s where the real trouble begins because it can quickly get inflamed.
Bee stings will just swell and itch, though if it forms a raw wound, it could get infected. As for wasps, some meat-eating ones contain venom that could hurt your dog. The safest bet is to relocate any wasp nests or bee hives. Use an ice pack to soothe the sting, and call your vet.
8. Dog Mites (Mange)
Mites are a broad category of pests that include dust mites and mold mites. Certain types of mites affect dogs, causing variants of mange, e.g. scabies or Sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange. Demodectic mange is caused by Demodex mites. Both infections lead to itchy sores.
Demodex mites stay on the hair and skin surface of your dog while scabies mites dig under the skin of your dog and are more contagious. If your dog only has a few of these mites, they don’t do much damage because your dog’s white blood cells can easily control the effects.
But when the mites multiply too fast, they can overwhelm your dog’s health. This mostly happens if the dog is already weak or sick and has weakened immunity. Topical medicine can usually resolve the issue, though your vet may also prescribe oral medications for the dog.
9. Household Flies
Whenever someone sees flies, they assume the area is filthy. But that’s not always the case. Even the most gentrified dog can leave a high-end grooming session and immediately dive into a pile of fallen leaves or a dank murky puddle, attracting houseflies and bluebottle flies.
They could be tiny drain flies and fruit flies or the mid-sized ones that buzz around the trash and settle on your dog. Household flies don’t usually bite, but they have a quick lifecycle so they multiply quite fast. And since dogs don’t bury their stool like cats do, flies follow them.
Another vector is people who walk their dogs in public but don’t clean up after them. This exposed mess can breed fly eggs which can sneak onto the paws and bodies of other dogs as they walk by. Hygiene is the best management tool, though dog-safe pesticides can be useful.
10. Biting Flies (e.g. Horseflies)
Household flies can tickle and annoy your dog, and their eggs and larvae can spread diseases. But other types of flies can bite your dog and cause direct damage through sores, pathogens, and infections. Horseflies mostly go for horses – hence the name – but they bite dogs too.
Horseflies look like king-sized houseflies so you may not notice the danger. But their bite is rather painful and can draw blood, so your dog may whine or yelp. The open bleeding wound easily gets infected, so you may have to call the vet for appropriate antibiotics and ointments.
Flies could also be a sign of another problem. Your dog may have cuts or bruises you haven’t spotted or internal parasites that are sneaking into the dog’s stool. Or maybe they’ve been playing in the garbage. Inspect the dog to find the cause, secure the yard, and set up a bath.
11. Flea Beetles
Flea beetles are strange insects. They have a lot in common with both fleas and beetles, and they got their name because they jump like fleas but are built like beetles. They have a black iridescent body with traces of blue, yellow, purple, green, and teal, with small jittery bodies.
Other flea beetles might have black-and-yellow stripes or be plain brown. You can sometimes see them on dogs but they’re more interested in plants, chewing such tiny holes in leaves that they end up looking like strainers. So they probably fell off a shrub and onto your dog’s fur.
Since they won’t bite or hurt your dog, you don’t need to do anything. But when the startled flea beetle jumps, you might mistake it for a flea and squish it anyway. They’re prettier than dog fleas though, and a lot more colorful. They’re 1.5mm to 3mm (0.06 to 0.12 inches).
Since fleas are such common dog pests, any other creature with ‘flea’ in its name becomes an automatic suspect. That might be what happened to springtails, sometimes known as snow fleas. The name comes from their hardiness – they’re among the only bugs that survive snow.
Springtails don’t just breed in winter though. You can find them all year round, but it’s easy to see them jumping around in fresh snow. And from there, they could piggyback onto your dog as s/he plays in the mush. Springtails don’t bite, but they hop like fleas and flea beetles.
When they jump from spot to spot, they’ll mind you of antsy black dots in the snow, and on your dog’s body too! They prefer to eat leaves and rotting matter, so they’re among nature’s composters. But indoors, they may get into raw dog food. A flea bath will get rid of them.
13. Stink Bugs
Stink bugs are the skunks of the insect world. When they’re stressed out, they produce a musk that scares off predators. If your dog likes to roll around in the grass, dig under fences, or bury things in your flower beds, it may pick up a stink bug that’s just minding its own.
These bugs don’t bite, but if they hitch a ride on your dog and come indoors, they could ruin your potted plants. The color of these bugs is driven by their habitat and preferred diet, so they can be a bright leafy green, a rich earthy brown, a dull speckled grey, or a mixed hue.
You can keep stink bugs out of your home by keeping your doors and windows closed, and sealing any gaps or leaks around them. But if it uses the doggy metro to get in, you’ll have to manually vacuum them out or call a professional exterminator that uses pet-safe treatments.
Did we forget any tiny black bugs that bother dogs? Tell us all about them in the comments!