Fleas are the most common external parasite in the world and they are capable of making your pet absolutely miserable! If they aren't promptly treated, they may even cause serious diseases in your pet. Our Santa Barbara veterinarians explain early signs of fleas and what to do about it if your pet has them.
What are fleas?
Fleas are external parasites that rely on a host animal for survival. Unless steps are taken to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet - and in your household.
What signs of flea infestation should I look for?
Dogs and cats may be allergic to a protein contained in flea saliva. Because of this, our pets often begin scratching as soon as a flea bites their skin. Even just one flea bite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated.
On top of scratching, rep bumps and pimples may appear on the belly and at the base of their tail, and under their legs. Your pet's constant itching will also cause hair loss and dry skin, as well as lesions and infection if the fleas aren't promptly treated.
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 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 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 effective and safe treatments may be used to eliminate fleas, including shampoos, sprays, topical liquids and powders. You may also need to get prescription creams and 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.