As the most common external parasite, fleas can make your pet uncomfortable and lead to serious infections or diseases if left untreated. Here, our the Pacific Northwest list early signs of infection and explain what to do if your pet has fleas.
What are fleas?
Fleas are external parasites that require an animal host to survive. Unless pet parents take steps to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to reproduce and live on your pet - and in your household.
What signs of flea infestation should I look for?
Dogs and cats can be allergic to the protein in a flea's saliva, which is why they will often start to scratch as soon as their skin is bitten by a flea. Even a single flea bite can cause your pet to scratch excessively and become agitated. Besides scratching, you may notice red bumps or pimples on your pet's belly, at the base of their tail or on their behind. These can also appear on their groin or under their legs. This constant itching and scratching can lead to dry skin and hair loss. If fleas are left untreated, infections and lesions may also develop, resulting in more severe diseases.
How can I check my pet for fleas?
Adult fleas are small, brown and relatively easy to spot with the naked eye.
While you're grooming them, check your pet's brush or comb. A good way to do this efficiently is to have your pet lie on his or her side. This allows you to closely inspect areas covered with thin hair, such as the abdomen.
Feces ("flea dirt") may look like tiny grains of sand, or black pepper if wet. To spot flea dirt, use a fine-tooth flea comb (available from your vet's office) to comb along your pet's back and underbelly. Have your pet stand on a white towel or cloth while grooming them so you can easily spot any black droppings that come from their fur.
What if I can’t spot any fleas, but my pet is still scratching?
Don't see any signs of fleas but still notice your pet scratching? Book an appointment with your vet, who can perform a skin test to find out whether your pet has an allergy to fleas or other parasites or allergens during your visit. The allergy may be causing your pet to feel uncomfortable and scratch.
How do I get rid of fleas if my cat or dog does have them?
You can use several safe and effective treatments to eliminate fleas, including topical liquids, shampoos, sprays and powders. If your pet's case is more severe, you may need to see your vet for antibiotics or prescription creams.
Your best and first options of choice include parasite prevention and early treatment to ensure fleas don't cause more serious issues in the future.