Fleas are one of the most common external parasites and are capable of making your pet miserable. If not promptly treated, they may even lead to infections and cause serious diseases. Here, our Lebanon vets explain what to look out for as the early signs of fleas and what to do if you find fleas on your dog or cat.
What are fleas?
Fleas are external parasites that almost entirely rely on a host animal for survival. Unless steps are taken to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to thrive and mate on your pet and spread throughout your home.
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.
On top of scratching, pimples and red bumps may appear on their belly, at the base of their tail and on their groin. Your pet's constant itching and scratching of these areas will cause dry skin and hair loss to occur. Lesions and infections can develop and lead to more severe diseases if fleas are left untreated.
How can I check my pet for fleas?
Adult fleas are relatively easy to see with your naked eye. Look out for small and grown insects.
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 can't see any sign of fleas but your pet is still scratching, schedule an appointment with your vet. They will be able to administer a skin test to check your pet for flea allergies as well as other kinds 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?
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.
The early treatment of fleas and their prevention altogether are the first and best methods of ensuring that your dog or cat don't develop more serious health issues in the future as a result of a bad case of fleas.