Fleas are the most common external parasite, and they can make your pet miserable! If left untreated, they may even lead to infections and cause serious diseases. Our New York 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 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 fleabite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated.
Besides scratching, red bumps or pimples may appear:
- On their belly
- On their behind
- At the base of their tail
- Under their legs
- On their groin
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), comb over your pet's back and underbelly using a fine-tooth flea comb available at your vet's office. By brushing your pet while standing them on a white towel or cloth, you will be able to notice 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?
Fleas can be eliminated using a variety of safe and efficient treatments, including shampoos, sprays, powders, and topical solutions. If your pet's condition is serious, you may need to see 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.