Fleas are the most common external parasites in the world and are capable of making your pet absolutely miserable! If they aren't promptly treated, fleas may lead to infection and cause serious disease. Here, our Sacramento vets explain the earliest signs of fleas and what to do if your pet has them.
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 flea bite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated.
Besides excessive scratching, fleas may cause your pet to develop pimples or red bumps on their belly, at the base of their tail, on their groin and under their legs. Your pet's constant itching and scratching will cause dry skin and hair loss. Likewise, lesions and infection can develop and lead to more severe diseases if fleas go untreated.
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 generally a good idea to check your pet's brush or comb while grooming them. Have your pet lie on their side to get a better look at the areas with thinner hair like their abdomen.
You may see "flea dirt". This looks similar to tiny grains of sand, or black pepper when wet. To check for flea dirt (feces), 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 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 vet, 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 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 dog doesn't develop more serious issues in the future, as a result of fleas.