Fleas are a common external parasite that can multiply quickly, invade your home, and make your pet miserable! If left untreated, they may even lead to infections and cause serious diseases. Our Argyle vets explain early signs of fleas, and what to do if your pet does have fleas.
What are fleas?
Fleas are external parasites that need a 'host' animal to live and feed on 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 are often 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 flea bite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated.
As well as scratching a lot, red bumps or pimples may appear on their belly, at the base of their tail or on their behind, on their groin or under their legs. Your pet's constant itching and scratching of these areas can lead to dry skin and hair loss. Lesions and infection can develop and result in more severe diseases if fleas are left untreated.
How can I check my pet for fleas?
Adult fleas are small and brown. They are fairly easy to spot with the naked eye.
Our team recommends that you check your pet's brush or comb whenever you are 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 may see "flea dirt" in your pet's fur. Flea dirt is flea feces that can also be fairly easy to spot once you know what you are looking for.
Flea dirt looks similar to tiny grains of sand, or black pepper when wet. To check for flea dirt, use a fine-tooth flea comb available at your vet's office to comb along your pet's back and underbelly. By standing your pet on a white towel or cloth while brushing them, you will be able to easily see any black droppings that fall from their coat.
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, it's time to schedule an appointment with your vet. Your veterinarian 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 their skin itchy.
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 vet 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 pet doesn't develop more serious issues in the future, as a result of fleas.