Fleas are one of the most common external parasites. And they are capable of making your pet uncomfortable and miserable. If not treated promptly, fleas may also cause infection and serious diseases. Here, our Bellevue vets explain the 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?
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 scratching, pimples and red bumps may appear on your pet's body. In particular, look for these on their belly, at the base of their tail and under their legs. The constant itching at these areas will cause your pet to lose hair and develop dry skin. Infections and lesions may also develop and cause even more severe diseases if fleas aren't promptly treated.
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 notice "flea dirt" on your pet. This looks quite similar to tiny grains of sand or black pepper when wet. In order to check for flea dirt, use a fine-toothed comb at your vet's office in order to comb along your pet's underbelly and back. By standing your pet overtop of a white towel or cloth while brushing them, you will be able to see black droppings fall from their fur.
What if I can’t find any fleas, but my pet is 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. 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?
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 is key when it comes to ensuring your pet doesn't develop more serious issues in the future because of fleas.