How do I know if my dog or cat has fleas?

Fleas can make your pet miserable! In fact, fleas are the most common external parasite that can affect your dog or cat. If left untreated, fleas can lead to infections and cause more serious diseases. Here, our Charlotte vets describe some early signs that your pet may have fleas, and what to do if your pet does have fleas.


What are fleas?

Fleas are external parasites, and like all parasites, fleas depend upon a host animal for their survival. Until you take steps to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet and in your home.

What signs of flea infestation should I look for?

Cats and dogs can be allergic to the protein in flea saliva, which is why pets often begin scratching as soon as the flea bites their skin. Fact is, even just one flea bite can cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated.

Besides scratching, another sign that your pet may have fleas is the appearance of red pimples or bumps on their belly, under the legs, at the base of their tail, on their behind, or on their groin. Often, the constant itching or scratching of these areas will cause dry skin and hair loss. Lesions and infection can develop and lead to more severe diseases if the fleas are left untreated.

How can I check my pet for fleas?

Relatively easy to see with the naked eye, adult fleas are small and brown.

It's a good idea check your pet's comb or brush while you're giving them their regular grooming. Having your pet lie on their side will allow you to get a closer look at thinly-haired areas like the abdomen.

You may notice 'flea dirt' or adult flea feces which looks similar to black pepper or tiny grains of sand that turn red when wet. To check for flea dirt use a fine-toothed flea comb, available from your vet, to comb along your pet's underbelly and back. By standing your pet on a white towel or cloth while you brush them, you will be able to easily spot any black droppings that fall from your pet.

What if I can’t find any fleas, but my pet is still scratching?

Make an appointment to see your vet if your cat or dog seems uncomfortable but there are no signs of fleas. Your vet can administer a skin test to check for flea allergies as well as other types of allergies during your visit. It's possible that your pet is experiencing another type of allergy which is making them uncomfortable.

If my cat or dog does have fleas, how do I get rid of them?

There are a number of safe and effective treatments to prevent or eliminate fleas including shampoos, topical liquids, powders and sprays. You may need to visit your vet for prescription creams and antibiotics if your pet's case is more severe.

Prompt treatment and prevention are the absolute best ways to ensure that your dog doesn't develop more serious issues in the future.

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We're always accepting new patients, so contact our veterinary hospital today to book your pet's first appointment.

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