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

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

External parasites like fleas are always looking to hitch a ride on your pet and make them miserable miserable! If left untreated fleas may lead to infection or serious disease. Our Mandeville vets explain early signs of fleas, and what to do if you suspect your pet has 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 - like a small army of itchy invaders. 

What signs of flea infestation should I look for?

Cats and dogs usually have an allergic reaction to the protein in flea saliva. One fleabite may be all it takes to cause discomfort, leading to agitation and aggressive itching.   The reaction is near-instantaneous, so scratching is likely to occur within minutes of being bit. 

Signs beyond scratching include red bumps and pimples that may appear on their belly, at the base of their tail, on their behind, on their groin, or under their legs.  Dry skin and hair loss are consequences of constant itching which further exasperate your pet's discomfort. Complications from flea infestation include lesions and infections which can develop into more severe diseases when 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 may also be able to detect the feces of the fleas, often called "flea dirt", with close inspection.  flea excrement looks similar to tiny grains of sand, or black pepper when wet. To check for flea dirt, 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.   Just because your pet is free of parasitic freeloaders, does not mean your pet cannot be suffering from another type of uncomfortable skin allergy 

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 preferred methods of choice to ensure your cat or dog doesn't develop more serious flea-related issues in the future. 

Do you think your cat or dog may have fleas?  Have you noticed irritation on the skin or tiny black particles in in the fur of your pet? Prompt treatment is required to keep your pet happy and healthy. Book an appointment at Riverside Veterinary Hospital today.

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At Riverside Veterinary Hospital, we are always accepting new patients. Our veterinary team is passionate about the health and well-being of companion animals in Mandeville. Book your first appointment today.

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