Fleas are external parasites that are extremely common and known for making pets very uncomfortable. If left untreated fleas can very quickly infest your pet and home. Our Brookhaven vets talk about how to tell if your cat or dog has fleas and how to treat them if they do.
What are fleas?
Fleas are a common external parasite that survives by living on the host animal and feeding on their blood. Fleas reproduce and cause infestations quickly so ensuring quick treatment is incredibly important for protecting your pets and household.
What does an infestation look like?
It is common for animals to be allergic to the protein in flea saliva, this is why it is common for pets to begin scratching at the moment the flea bites their skin. Even one flea bite 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, on their behind, on their groin or under their legs. The damage caused by recurring itching and scratching in these areas can lead to potential hair loss as well as lesions and infections that can develop and lead to more severe diseases if the infestation is left untreated.
How should I inspect my pet for fleas?
Fleas are small brown parasites that are easy to recognize while inspecting your pet.
You can potentially find these fleas on the brush or comb during grooming sessions or inspect your pet's fur while they are laying down and relaxing.
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. Laying a white towel or cloth under your pet while grooming them can help you to spot fleas as they fall to the ground during brushing.
I can't see any fleas, why is my pet still scratching?
If your pet is excessively scratching yet you could not find any fleas then it is recommended to 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. It is possible that your pet is reacting to an allergen other than fleas and will need a different course of action in order to manage the symptoms.
How do I treat fleas on my cat or dog?
Fleas are a common issue, because of this there are a variety of safe and effective treatments that can be used to eliminate fleas, including shampoos, sprays, powders and topical liquids. If your pet is experiencing a severe infestation then your vet may recommend a prescription cream or treatment to relieve your pet.
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.