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 San Mateo vets explain early signs of fleas, and what to do if your pet does have fleas.
What are fleas?
Fleas are parasitic insects that need a host animal to survive. Adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet - and in your home, unless you take steps to break their lifecycle.
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.
Red bumps or pimples may appear on their belly, at the base of their tail, on their behind, in their groin, or under their legs, in addition to scratching. Dry skin and hair loss will result from the constant scratching and itching of these areas. If fleas are not treated, lesions and infections can develop, leading to more serious diseases.
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 its side will let you have a closer look at areas with thin hair, such as the abdomen.
It's possible that you'll see "flea dirt." When wet, this resembles tiny grains of sand or black pepper. Use a fine-tooth flea comb available at your veterinarian's office to comb along your pet's back and underbelly to check for flea dirt (feces). You can easily see any black droppings that fall from your pet's fur if you brush them while standing them on a white towel or cloth.
What if I can’t find any fleas, but my pet is still scratching?
If your pet is scratching despite the absence of fleas, make an appointment with your veterinarian, who can perform a skin test to check for flea allergies as well as other allergies during your visit. Your pet could be reacting to a different type of allergy that is bothering them.
If my cat or dog does have fleas, how do I get rid of them?
Shampoos, sprays, powders, and topical liquids are just a few of the safe and effective flea treatments available. If your pet's condition is more severe, you may need to see your veterinarian for prescription creams and antibiotics.
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.