Fleas are the most common external parasite, and they can be extremely unpleasant for your pet! They may even cause infections and serious diseases if left untreated. Our Poway veterinarians discuss the early signs of flea infestation and how to treat your pet if it does have fleas.
What are fleas?
Fleas are external parasites that survive by parasitizing a host animal. Adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet - and in your household - unless steps are taken to break their lifecycle.
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 frequently scratch immediately after being bitten by a flea. Even a single flea bite can induce excessive scratching and agitation in pets.
Apart from scratching, they may develop red bumps or pimples on their belly, at the base of their tail, on their behind, in their groin, or between their legs. Continuous scratching and itching in these areas will result in dry skin and hair loss. If fleas are not treated, lesions and infection can develop, progressing to more severe 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 might notice "flea dirt." When wet, this resembles tiny grains of sand or black pepper. To check for flea dirt (feces), comb along your pet's back and underbelly with a fine-tooth flea comb available at your veterinarian's office. By brushing your pet while standing on a white towel or cloth, you can 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 fleas but your pet continues to scratch, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, who can perform a skin test to check for flea allergies, as well as other types of allergies, during your visit. Your pet may be experiencing discomfort due to another type of allergy.
If my cat or dog does have fleas, how do I get rid of them?
Fleas can be eliminated using a variety of safe and effective treatments, including shampoos, sprays, powders, and topical liquids. If your pet's condition is more severe, you may need to visit your veterinarian for prescription creams and antibiotics.
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.