Fleas are the most common external parasite in the world, and they are capable of making your pet's life absolutely miserable. If left untreated, fleas can even cause serious infections or diseases. Our Richmond 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 a protein in flea saliva, which is why they will often start to scratch as soon as they are bitten. Even one flea bite can be enough to cause an allergic pet to scratch excessively and become stressed.
On top of scratching, pimples and red bumps may appear at the base of your pet's belly, on their tail and behind, under their legs and around their groin. Their constant scratching will also lead to these areas becoming dried out and begin to lose hair. Infections and lesions can also develop and lead to more serious 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.