How can I tell if my cat or dog has fleas?

Fleas are the most common external parasite in the world, and they can make you pet absolutely miserable. If they aren't quickly treated, pets may develop infections and serious diseases because of fleas. Our Lafayette vets explain early signs of fleas, and what to do if your pet does have fleas. 

What are fleas?

Fleas are external parasites that need a host for survival. Unless steps are taken to break the cycle of a flea infestation, adult fleas will thrive on your pet and in your household.

What signs of flea infestation should I look for?

Cats and dogs may be allergic to the protein in flea saliva, which is why they often start to scratch as soon as a flea bites their skin. Even one flea bite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated. 

On top of the scratching you expect. Your pet may also develop red bumps, a rash, or pimples at the base of their tail and on their belly. The constant scratching of these areas can also lead to hair loss and dry skin, Infection and lesions may also develop and lead to more severe diseases if not treated promptly. 

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 aren't any signs of fleas, but your pet is still excessively scratching, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. They will conduct a series of tests to check both for a flea allergy in your pet as well as a variety of other allergies. 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?

There are a number of effective and safe treatments that can be used to eliminate fleas, including powders, sprays, shampoos and topical applications. If your pet's case is more severe, you may need to visit your vet for prescription creams or antibiotics. 

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. 

Do you think your dog may have a severe case of fleas? Prompt treatment is key. Book an appointment at St. Francis Veterinary Hospital today.