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

Fleas are one of the most common external parasites in the world and are capable of making your pet miserable! If not promptly treated, fleas may also cause quite serious diseases. Here, our Sacramento vet team explains what to look out for as early signs of fleas and what to do if your pet has fleas.

What are fleas?

Fleas are external parasites that rely on a host animal for survival. Unless steps are taken to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet - and in your household. 

What signs of flea infestation should I look for?

Both dogs and cats may be allergic to proteins in flea saliva, which is often why they begin scratching as soon as they are bitten for the first time by a flea. Even just one flea bite may be enough to agitate your cat or dog.

On top of the scratching, pimples and red bumps may appear on their belly, at the base of their tail, or on their behind. their constant scratching may also cause excessive hair loss and dry skin. 

Lesions and infections can develop and lead to more severe diseases if fleas are left untreated. 

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 you can't find signs of fleas, but your pet is still scratching, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. They will be able to administer a skin test to check for flea allergies among many other possible allergies. 

Your pet may be reacting to a completely different kind of allergy that is making them uncomfortable.

If my cat or dog does have fleas, how do I get rid of them?

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. 

Do you think your pet may have a serious case of fleas? Prompt treatment is important! Book an appointment at Veterinary Medical Center today.