Fleas are one of the most common external parasites in the world and are capable of making your pet absolutely miserable! If not promptly treated after making your pet a host, they may lead to infection or other serious diseases too. Here, our Egg Harbor Township vets explain the early 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?
Dogs and cats may have an allergy to the protein found in the saliva of fleas. Because of this, they will often begin scratching the instant a flea bites their skin. Even just one flea bite is generally enough for your pet to become agitated and uncomfortable.
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 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 also notice "flea dirt" on your pet. This is flea feces and looks quite similar to sand or, when wet, black pepper. To check for flea dirt, use a fine-toothed comb like the kind you may be able to find in your vet's office to comb their back and belly.
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?
There are a wide number of both safe and effective treatments that you can use to eliminate fleas, including shampoos, powders, topical liquids and sprays. You may also need to visit your vet for prescription creams and antibiotics if your pet's case is more severe than usual.
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.