Fleas are not only one of the most commonly seen external parasites but if left untreated can also lead to complications from infections. Our Oklahoma City vets share the way you can tell that your dog or cat has fleas and how you can manage the situation or even prevent it altogether.
Fleas: What you need to know about this parasite.
Just like any parasite, fleas require a living host to actively feed and stay alive. Unless steps are taken to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet and your household.
What are the signs of a flea infestation?
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. It can take as little as a single bite from a flea for your pet to 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. These areas' constant itching and scratching will cause dry skin and hair loss. If left untreated the lesions and wounds caused by your pet scratching can become infected and lead to other more serious complications.
What is the easiest way to check my cat or dog for fleas?
Adult fleas are fairly easy to see while looking as they are small and brown and you will most likely spot them moving or jumping.
It's a good idea to check your pet's brush or comb while you're grooming them. Having your pet lie on its 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.
I didn't find any fleas. So why is my cat or dog 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. While we first think of fleas when our pets begin to scratch it could be other allergies that are irritating their skin and making them uncomfortable.
How can I treat my dog or cat for fleas if they become infested?
Several 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.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.