Fleas are one of the most common external parasites in the world and are capable of making your pet absolutely miserable. If they aren't treated quickly too, they may cause serious infections or other health issues too. Here, our Los Angeles veterinary team explains the early signs of fleas to look out for and what to do if you find fleas on your pet.
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 fleabite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated.
On top of the expected scratching, pimples and red bumps may appear on your pet's belly, at the base of their tail and on their groin. Their constant itching will also cause dry skin to develop and abnormal hair loss to occur. Lesions and infections may also develop and led to more severe disease 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 your pet is scratching but you can't find any signs of fleas, contact your vet to schedule an appointment. They are able to administer a skin test to check for allergies to fleas among a number of other sources. Your pet may actually be reacting to a different kind fo allergy that is causing them discomfort.
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.