How can I tell if my cat or dog has fleas?

Out of all the external parasites, fleas are the most common. They can irritate your pet and if they go untreated, they could even cause infections or lead to more serious diseases. In this blog, our vets in Los Angeles discuss the early warning signs of fleas, and how you can treat your pet if they have them. 

What are fleas?

Fleas are a common external parasite that needs to live on an animal host to survive. Unless you take the proper steps to break their lifecycle, the fleas will keep reproducing and thriving on your cat or dog and in your home.

What are the signs of a flea infestation?

Your pet could be allergic to a protein in the flea's saliva, which is the reason why they usually scratch the second they are bitten by a flea. Even a single fleabite can make a pet agitated and excessively scratch. 

Other symptoms besides scratching include red bumps or pimples that appear on your pet's belly, at the base of their tailor, on their behind, groin, or under their legs. The repeated itching and scratching could also cause hair loss and dry skin. Lesions and infections can develop and lead to more severe diseases if fleas are left untreated. 

What are the best ways to check my pet for fleas?

Adult fleas are small and brown. They are fairly easy to see with the human 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 might see "flea dirt" which looks like tiny grains of sand, or black pepper when wet. To look 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. You can stand your pet on a white towel or cloth when you are brushing them, to see any black droppings that fall from their fur. 

What to do if I can’t find fleas, but my pet is still itching?

If there aren't any signs of fleas but your pet is still scratching, book an appointment with your vet, who will be able to conduct a skin test to check for flea allergies, in addition to other types of allergies during your visit. Your cat or dog could be reacting to another allergen that's making them uncomfortable.  

I found fleas on my pet, 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 might have to contact your vet to get a prescription cream or 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. 

If your pet is suffering from a severe case of fleas contact our Los Angeles vets immediately for prompt treatment.