Fleas are one of the most common external parasites in the world. And they can make your dog uncomfortable, itchy and miserable! If they aren't promptly treated, fleas can lead to infections and also cause serious diseases. Our Farmington Hills 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 their host for survival completely. Unless you take steps to break the flea life cycle, adult fleas will reproduce and thrive on your pet and in your home.
What signs of flea infestation should I look for?
Cats and dogs may be allergic to the protein in flea saliva, which is why they often start to scratch as soon as a flea bites their skin. Even one flea bite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become 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 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 notice "flea dirt" in your pet's coat as well. This is flea feces and appears like miniscule grains of sand, or, when wet, it can look like black pepper. To check for flea dirt, use a fine-toothed comb to comb your pet's back and belly. You should be able to get a flea comb from your vet's office. By standing your pet over a white towel or cloth while combing them in this way, you will be able to to easily see any flea dirt falling form 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?
There are a number of effective and safe treatments for fleas available to pet owners. These include topical liquids, powders, shampoos and sprays. If your pet has a particularly severe case, you may need to get a prescription for creams or antibiotics from your vet.
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.