Fleas are the most common external parasite, and they can make your pet miserable! If left untreated, they may even lead to infections and cause serious diseases. Our Diablo View veterinarians explain early signs of fleas, and what to do if your pet does have fleas.
What Are Fleas?
Fleas are external parasites that rely on a host animal for survival. Unless steps are taken to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet - and in your household.
What signs of flea infestation should I look for?
Cats and dogs may be allergic to the protein in flea saliva, which is why they often start to scratch as soon as a flea bites their skin. Even one fleabite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated.
Red lumps or pimples may occur on their belly, at the base of their tail or on their behind, on their crotch or beneath their legs, in addition to scratching. Dry skin and hair loss will result from the continuous itching and scratching of these regions. If fleas are not treated, lesions and infection can develop, leading to more serious illnesses.
How can I check my pet for fleas?
Adult fleas are small and brown. They are relatively easy to spot with the naked eye.
It's a good idea to check your pet's brush or comb while you're grooming them. Having your pet lie on their side will let you have a closer look at areas with thin hair, such as the abdomen.
You could notice "flea dirt." When wet, this resembles small grains of sand or black pepper. To check for flea dirt (feces), comb over your pet's back and underbelly using a fine-tooth flea comb available at your veterinarians office. By brushing your pet while standing them on a white towel or cloth, you will be able to notice any black droppings that fall from their fur.
What if I can’t find any fleas, but my pet is still scratching?
If there are no signs of fleas but your pet is still scratching, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, who can administer a skin test to check for flea allergies, in addition to other types of allergies during your visit. Your pet may be reacting to another type of allergy that's making them uncomfortable.
If my cat or dog does have fleas, how do I get rid of them?
A number of safe and effective treatments can be used to eliminate fleas, including shampoos, sprays, powders and topical liquids. You may need to visit your veterinarian for prescription creams and antibiotics if your pet's case is more severe.
Early treatment and prevention are the first methods of choice to ensure your dog doesn't develop more serious issues in the future, as a result of fleas.