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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?

The most common parasite that pet parents encounter is fleas. Fleas can make your pet extremely uncomfortable and if left untreated can lead to serious infections. Our Sault Ste. Marie vets discuss how to spot the signs of fleas on your cat or dog and how to treat them.

What are fleas?

Fleas are external parasites and like all parasites, fleas rely on another animal to be their host in order to survive. Unless steps are taken to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet - and in your household. 

What does a flea infestation look like?

Cats and dogs may initially begin to scratch due to most having allergic reactions to the saliva of the fleas as they are bitten. As few as one or two flea bites may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated. 

Along with the excessive scratching, your pet may begin to develop small red bumps or pimples. These bumps could be on their stomach, 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. If left untreated lesions and infections can develop and lead to more severe diseases.

How should I examine my pet for fleas?

Fleas should be easy to spot as you are examining your pet. They will appear as small brown flecks on your dog's skin and fur.

Using a brush or comb while brushing your pet may help you to spot the fleas easier while examining your pet. 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 spot flea dirt which is actually the feces of the fleas and may have the appearance of wet sand or black pepper. 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 my pet is scratching without fleas?

If you have examined your pet and been unable to spot any signs of fleas but you find that your pet is still scratching, it would be beneficial to schedule an appointment with your vet They can administer a skin test that will check your pet 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?

Luckily, there are a number of safe and effective treatments available that can be used to successfully treat fleas, including shampoos, sprays, powders and topical liquids.  If your pet's case is more severe you may need to visit your vet for prescription creams and antibiotics. 

Early treatment and prevention are imperative for treatment to be successful and are the first methods of choice to ensure your dog doesn't develop more serious issues in the future, as a result of fleas. 

Are you concerned that your pet may be suffering from a flea infestation? Book an appointment to have your pet examined.

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