Fleas are one of the most common external parasites in the world and they are capable of making your pet absolutely miserable. If they are left untreated, fleas may cause further infection or other serious diseases. Here, our Des Moines vets explain the early signs of fleas for you to watch out for and what to do if you discover that your pet does have fleas.
What are fleas?
Fleas are external parasites that rely on their host animals for survival. Unless you take steps to break their lifecycle, fleas will continuously reproduce and thrive on your pet's body and in your home.
What signs of flea infestation should I look for?
Dogs and cats may be allergic to the proteins in flea saliva. This is often why they start scratching and itching as soon as a flea bites their skin. Even on flea bite may be enough to cause your pet to start scratching more that normal and become stressed or agitated.
Besides scratching, red bumps or pimples may appear on their belly, at the base of their tail or on their behind, on their groin or under their legs. The constant itching and scratching of these areas will cause dry skin and hair loss. Lesions and infection can develop and lead to more severe diseases 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 generally a good idea to check your pet's brush or comb while you groom them. Having your pet lie on their side will allow you to take closer look at areas on their body with thinner hair such as their 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 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.
The early treatment and prevention of fleas should be your methods of choice to make sure that your pet doesn't develop more serious issues in the future as a result of fleas.