The most common external parasites can have your pet feeling miserable! Left untreated, they may even lead to infections that cause serious diseases. Our vets in Merced explain early signs of fleas, and what to do if your pet does have fleas.
What are fleas?
Fleas rely on a host animal for survival. Unless steps are taken to break the lifecycle of these external parasites, adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet — and in your household.
What signs of flea infestation should I look for?
The protein in flea saliva can cause an allergic reaction in cats and dogs, which often triggers them to start scratching as soon as the flea bites their skin. Even one flea bite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated.
Besides scratching, you may notice pimples or red bumps appear on their belly, behind or groin, under their legs or at the base of their tail. The constant itching and scratching of these areas can cause hair loss and dry skin. Infections and lesions can develop, leading to more serious diseases if fleas are not treated.
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.