Fleas are the most common external parasite in the world and are capable of making your pet absolutely miserable. Not only that, but if fleas aren't promptly treated, they may lead to infections and cause serious health issues. Here, our veterinarians in Ypsilanti explains what the early signs of fleas are and what actions to take if you discover that 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?
Cats and dogs can be allergic to a protein in flea saliva, which is why they often begin to itch as soon as a flea bites their skin for the first time. One flea bite is generally enough to start your pet scratching excessively and become agitated.
Besides the itching, pimples and red bumps may appear on your pet's belly, on their behind, at the base of their tail and on their groin and between their legs. Constant itching and scratching of these areas will cause hair loss and dry skin. Your pet may even develop infections or lesions which can cause more severe diseases if they 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 your can't find any signs of fleas, but your pet is still scratching excessively, schedule an appointment wit your vet. They will conduct a skin test to detect flea allergies as well as a number of other kinds fo allergies during your visit. Your pet may actually be reacting to a different kind of allergy entirely which is 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.