As the most common external parasite, fleas are masters at making your pet miserable! If left untreated, they may even lead to infections and cause serious diseases. Our South Salem vets explain early signs of fleas, and what to do if your pet does have fleas.
Fleas are common external parasites that rely on a host animal to survive and complete its life cycle. Unless steps are taken to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to rapidly reproduce and thrive on your pet - and in your household.
Flea infestations: signs
The classic symptom of agitated scratching may be caused by cats and dogs' allergies to a protein the saliva of fleas. They often start to scratch as soon as a flea bites their skin, and even one fleabite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become irritated.
Besides scratching, red bumps or pimples may appear on their belly, at the base of their tail or 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 to check your pet for fleas
Adult fleas are small and brown, and should be relatively easy to spot with the naked eye.
While grooming your pet, it's a good idea to check their brush or comb for fleas. Having your pet lie on their side will let you have a closer look at areas with thinner hair, such as the abdomen.
You might see flea feces ("flea dirt"). This looks similar to tiny grains of sand, or wet-looking grains like black pepper. To check for flea dirt, get a personal fine-tooth flea comb from your vet's office to comb along your pet's back and underbelly. By having your pet stand on a white towel or cloth while brushing them, you will be able to easily see any black droppings that fall from their fur or hair.
No fleas, but still itchy?
If there are no signs of fleas but your pet is still scratching themselves excessively, schedule an appointment with your vet. They 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 pet has fleas, how do I get rid of them?
Luckily, there are many safe and effective treatments that can be used to eliminate fleas such as shampoos, sprays, powders, and topical liquids. If your pet's case is more severe, you may need to visit your vet for prescription creams and antibiotics to ease your pet's discomfort.
Early treatment and prevention of fleas are the best ways to ensure your pet doesn't develop more serious issues in the future.