Fleas are an extremely common parasite that can make your pet itchy and miserable! Left untreated, fleas may even lead to infections and cause serious diseases. Our Tracy vets explain the early signs of fleas, and what to do if your pet gets fleas.
What are fleas?
Fleas are a common external parasite that relies on a host animal for survival. Unless steps are taken to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will continually reproduce and thrive on your pet - and all over your household.
What signs of fleas should I look for?
Cats and dogs that are allergic to the protein in flea saliva will start to itch and scratch as soon as a flea bites their skin. Even one fleabite could cause your dog or cat to scratch excessively and become agitated.
As well as scratching, red bumps or pimples may appear on your pet's 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 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 do I know if my pet has fleas?
Adult fleas are small, brown, and relatively easy to spot with the naked eye.
Pet parents should check their pet's brush or comb for signs of fleas during grooming. Having your pet lie on their side will let you have a closer look at areas with thin hair, such as the abdomen.
Flea dirt - which looks similar to tiny grains of sand, or black pepper when wet is actually flea feces and may be easier to spot. To check for flea dirt on your pet 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 spot black droppings that may fall from your animal's 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 itching and scratching, book an appointment with your veterinarian, who can run 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 uncomfortable.
If my cat or dog does have fleas, how do I get rid of them?
There are a number of safe and effective treatments which 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 essential to ensure your dog doesn't develop more serious issues in the future, as a result of fleas.