Fleas are the most common external parasite in the world and they are capable of making your pet miserable. If they aren't treated, they may even lead to infections and cause serious diseases. Our veterinary team in Ocala here explains early signs of fleas and what to do if your pet does have fleas.
What are fleas?
Fleas are external parasites that entirely rely on their host animal for survival. Unless steps are taken to break down their lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet (an 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, red bumps or pimples may appear on your pet's belly, on their behind and at the base of their tail, on their groin and under their legs. The constant itching and scratching of these areas will cause hair loss and dry skin in your pet. Lesions and infection can develop, leading to a more severe disease is 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 and comb while you are grooming them. Having your pet lie on their side will let you to take a closer looks at areas with thinner hair, where fleas may be easier to spot.
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 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.
Prevention and early treatment are the first lines of defense in ensuring that your dog doesn't develop more serious issues in the future as a result of an untreated case of fleas.