How can I tell if my cat or dog has fleas?

How can I tell if my cat or dog has fleas?

Fleas are among the most common external parasites in the world. They are capable of makig your pet miserable and, if left untreated, can cause infections or serious illnesses. Our Simi Valley vets 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 flea bite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated. 

Besides scratching, 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. The constant itching and scratching of these areas will cause dry skin and hair loss. Lesions and infection can develop and lead to more severe diseases if fleas are left untreated. 

How can I check my pet for fleas?

Adult fleas are brown and quite small. However, you should be able to see them with your naked eye without issue.

It's generally a good idea to check your pet's comb or brush while grooming them for fleas. Have them lie on their side so you can get a closer look at area with thin hair such as 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 aren't any signs of fleas on your pet, but they are still scratching, schedule an appointment with your vet. They will be able to administer a number of tests to check your pet not only for flea allergies, but a wide variety of allergies. Your pet may be reacting to something they are allergic to and is 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. 

Do you think your dog may have a severe case of fleas? Prompt treatment is key. Book an appointment at Park Animal Hospital today.