Fleas are the most common parasite in the world, and they are able to make your pet absolutely miserable! If they aren't promptly treated, fleas may even cause infections or serious diseases. Here, our Tucson vets explain early signs of fleas to look our for and what action to take if your pet has 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 a protein in the saliva of fleas. Because of this, they will often begin to scratch as soon as they are bitten. Even one single flea bite may be enough to cause your pet to excessively scratch or become otherwise agitated.
Besides the characteristic scratching, pimples or red bumps may appear on your pet's belly, at the base of their tail and between their legs. Their constant scratching in these areas will also cause their skin to dry and their hair to fall out. If intreated, fleas can also cause infections and lesions to develop, or more serious diseases if left for long enough.
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 notice "flea dirt" on your pet. This substance looks similar to sand or, when wet, black pepper. To check for flea dirt (flea feces), using a fine toothed comb which you can acquire at your vet's office to comb your pet's back and underbelly. If your stand your pet on a white towel while you do so, you will be able to see these black droppings as they fall from your pet's fur quite easily.
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?
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 doesn't develop more serious issues in the future, as a result of fleas.