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

Fleas are the most common external parasite in the world and can make your pet really uncomfortable! If they are left alone, fleas can cause serious diseases and infections. Our Wake Forest vets explain early signs of fleas, and what to do if your pet does have fleas. 

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?

Cats and dogs can be allergic to proteins in flea saliva. Because of this, they often start to scratch as soon as they receive a flea bite. Even one bite is enough to cause them to scratch excessively and become agitated. 

Besides the scratching and itching, pimples and red bumps can appear on their belly, at the base of their tails or on their behinds. The itching and scratching will also cause hair loss and dry skin.  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. 

While you are grooming your pet, it's a good idea to check you brush or comb for fleas while you do so. Having your pet lie on their side will also let you get a closer look at areas with thinner hair on their body 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 aren't any signs of fleas but your pet is still scratching, make sure to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. They will be able to test your pet for flea allergies among others. 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. 

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. 

Do you think your dog may have a severe case of fleas? Prompt treatment is key. Book an appointment at North Wake Animal Hospital today.