Fleas are the most common external parasite in the world and are capable of making your pet absolutely miserable. If not promptly treated, they may even cause your companion to develop infections and other serious diseases. Here, our White House vets explain fleas' early signs and what to do if your pet becomes a host.
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 the expected scratching, pimples and red bumps may appear on their belly, their behind and their groin. Your pet's constant itching of these areas will cause dry skin and hair loss. Lesions and infections may develop and lead to far more serious diseases if the fleas aren't promptly treated.
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 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 you don't notice any signs of fleas but your pet is still scratching, schedule a checkup with your veterinarian. They will be able to run a skin test to check your pet for flea allergies as well as a whole host of other potential allergies. It may be the case that your pet is reacting to an entirely different kind of allergens hat 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.