Fleas are some of the most common parasites in the world, and they are capable of making your pet absolutely miserable and uncomfortable. If fleas aren't promptly treated, they may even cause serious disease. Here, our Plainfield Animal Hospital vets explain the early signs of fleas and what to do if you identify fleas on your pet.
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?
Dogs and cat may be allergic to a protein in flea saliva. This is why they will often begin scratching as soon as a flea bites their skin. Even one single flea bite will often be enough to cause your pet to excessively scratch and become agitated.
On top of scratching, your pet may develop pimples or red bumps on their belly, on their behind and around their groin. Their constant itching will also cause their skin to dry out and their their to shed more than normal. If untreated, infections or lesions may develop and lead 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 their side will let you have a closer look at areas with thin hair, such as the abdomen.
You may notice "flea dirt" on your pet. This substance looks similar to tiny grains of sand, or black pepper when wet. In order to check for flea dirt, use a fine-toothed comb which you could find at your vet's office, and comb along your pet's back and underbelly. If you stand your pet overtop of a white towel, you should be able to easily see any black droppings which fall from their fur while you do so.
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.