Fleas are among the most common external parasites in the world, and they are able to make your pet absolutely miserable! If they are left untreated for too long, they can also cause infections and serious diseases. Here, our Sechelt 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 flea saliva (specifically to a protein found in the saliva), which is why they begin frantically itching as soon as a flea bites them. Even one flea bite can be enough to start allergic pets to become agitated and scratch excessively.
Because scratching, a rash and red bumps may appear on your pet's belly, on their groin and under their legs, and on their behind or at the base of their tail. The itching and scratching of these areas can cause dry skin and hair loss. Infections and lesions can also develop if the flea infestation is left untreated for too long.
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 there aren't any signs of flea bites, but your pet is still itching, schedule an appointment with your vet who will be able to administer a skin test to check for flea allergies among other kinds of allergies. It may be that your pet is reacting to a different kind of allergy that 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 or cat doesn't develop more serious issues in the future, as a result of fleas.