Fleas are a very common external parasite. They can make your pet very uncomfortable! If they are left untreated, they can also cause infections or disease. Our Berkeley vets explain early signs of fleas, and what to do if your pet does have fleas.
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 can be allergic to proteins in flea saliva, which can cause them to start to scratch after the first bite. Even one flea bite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated.
On top of scratching, red bumps and pimples can also appear at the base of your pet's belly, on their behind and their tail. The constant scratching of these areas will cause hair loss and dry skin. 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.
Might might also see "flea dirt." Thid substance looks similar to fine sand or when it's wet, black pepper. This is flea feces, and is generally pretty easy to find if you use a fine-toothed flea comb on your pet's fur over top of a white towel. 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 number of safe an effective treatments which can be used to eliminate fleas. These include sprays, powders, shampoos, and topical liquids. You might need to visit your pet for a prescriptions cream or antibiotics if you pet has a more serious case.
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.