The most common external parasite, fleas can make your pet miserable. Untreated fleas can even lead to infections and cause serious diseases. Our vets in Cincinnati list early signs of fleas, and what to do if your pet does have fleas.
What are fleas?
These external parasites rely on a host animal for survival. Unless steps are taken to break the lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet — and throughout your household.
What signs of flea infestation should I look for?
Dogs and cats can be allergic to the protein in flea saliva, which is why they often begin to scratch as soon as a flea bites their skin. Even one flea bite can cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated.
Besides scratching, pimples or red bumps may appear on the belly, on their behind or at the base of their tail. They can also be on their groin or under the legs. The constant itching and scratching can cause hair loss and dry skin. Lesions and infection may develop, leading 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.
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 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.