Fleas are the most common external parasite. Left untreated, they can not only make your pet miserable but also lead to infections and even cause serious diseases. Our vets in Albany explain early signs of fleas, and what to do if your pet does have fleas.
What are fleas?
These external parasites need host animals for survival. Unless we take steps to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will keep reproducing and thriving on your pet - and in your household.
What signs of flea infestation should I look for?
The protein in flea saliva can cause an allergic reaction in cats and dogs, which is why you may notice they start to scratch as soon as a flea bites their skin. Even one bite can cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated.
In addition to scratching, pimples or red bumps may appear on their belly, on their behind or at the base of their tail, under their legs or on their groin. Constant itching and scratching of these areas will cause hair loss and dry skin. If fleas are left untreated, infections and lesions can develop and lead to 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, it's a good idea to check your pet's comb or brush. Have your pet lie on their side so you can closely examine areas with thin hair, such as the abdomen.
You may notice "flea dirt", which looks similar to tiny grains or sand, or black pepper when wet. To check for flea dirt (feces), use a fine-tooth comb available at your vet's office and comb along your pet's underbelly and back. Stand your pet on a white cloth or towel while brushing them and you will be able to easily spot any black droppings which fall from their fur.
What if I can’t find any fleas, but my pet is still scratching?
Is your pet still scratching, even after you haven't seen any signs of fleas? Book an appointment with your vet, who can take a skin test to detect for flea allergies, in addition to other types of allergies during your visit. Another type of allergy may be causing a reaction in your pet and making them uncomfortable.
If my cat or dog does have fleas, how do I get rid of them?
To eliminate fleas, you may use a number of safe, effective treatments. These can include sprays, shampoos, topical liquids and powders. If your pet's case is more severe, you may need to visit your vet for antibiotics and prescription creams. To ensure your dog doesn't develop more serious issues in the future, early treatment and prevention are the first methods of choice when it comes to fleas.