Of all the external parasites fleas are the most common, and they have the ability to make your cat or dog feel irritated and miserable. If you don't treat your pet's fleas quickly they can cause infections and severe diseases. Here, our vets in Fairfield, NJ share early signs that indicate your pet has fleas, as well as how you can treat them.
What are fleas?
Fleas are very common external parasites that need an animal host to survive. Unless you take the proper steps to break the flea's lifecycle, the adult fleas will keep reproducing and thriving on your pet - and throughout your home.
What are the early signs of a flea infestation?
Your cat or dog could be allergic to a protein in flea saliva, which makes them start scratching immediately after being bitten by a flea. Just a single flea bite is enough to make your pet agitated and scratch excessively.
Other than scratching, red pimples or bumps can develop on your pet's belly, at the base of their tail, on their behind, under their legs, or on their groin. Continuous itching and scratching at these areas will lead to hair loss and dry skin. Your pet can also develop lesions and infection, and if fleas are left untreated they can cause more severe diseases.
How can I tell if my cat or dog has fleas?
Adult fleas are small and brown and fairly easy to see with the naked eye.
We suggest checking your pet's comb or brush while you're grooming them. You can also have your pet lie on their side so you can get a closer look at areas that have 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 do I do if my pet is still scratching and I can't see any fleas?
If you can't find any signs of fleas but your kitty or pooch is still scratching, make an appointment with your vet, who be able to implement a skin test to check for flea allergies, as well as other types of allergies during your visit. Your pet could be reacting to another type of allergy that's making them uncomfortable.
My pet has fleas, how can I get rid of them?
There are a handful of safe and effective treatments that 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 make sure your dog or cat doesn't develop more serious conditions in the future, as a result of fleas.