Fleas are one of the most common external parasites in the world and are capable of making your pet absolutely miserable. If not caught and treated early, fleas may even lead to serious infection and disease. Here, our Villa Rica vets explain the early signs of fleas and what to do if your pet has them.
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 are often allergic to proteins in flea saliva. This is why they will often begin scratching as soon as a flea bites their skin. Just one flea bite may be enough to make your pet uncomfortable and cause them to scratch excessively and become agitated.
Besides scratching, red bumps or pimples may appear on their belly, at the base of their tail, on their behind, on their groin, or under their legs. The constant itching and scratching of these areas will cause dry skin and hair loss. 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 small, brown and easily spotted with your 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 your pet is abnormally scratching, but there are no signs of fleas on them, schedule an appointment with your vet. They will be able to administer a skin test for flea allergies in addition to other kinds of allergies during your visit. Your pet may be reacting to a completely different kind of allergy that is making them itchy and uncomfortable.
If my cat or dog does have fleas, how do I get rid of them?
There are a number of safe and effective treatments that are commonly used to eliminate fleas. These include sprays, topical liquids, and shampoos. If your dog or cat has a particularly severe case, you may need to visit your vet for prescriptions 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.