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

Fleas are the most common external parasite, and they can make your pet miserable! If left untreated, they may even lead to infections and cause serious diseases. Our Vancouver vets explain early signs of fleas, and what to do if your pet does have fleas. 

What are fleas and how do they survive?

Fleas are the most common external parasite and as parasites, they are only able to survive by feeding on the blood of host animals. Fleas reproduce very quickly and unless properly treated they will continue to reproduce and infest your animals and your house.

What are the signs that my pet has fleas?

Commonly, when your pet begins to scratch after being bitten by a flea it is caused by an allergic reaction to the saliva of the flea rather than the actual bite. Even one fleabite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated. 

Some of the most common areas affected by fleas will be within the folds or the harder-to-see parts of your pet's body, such as 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 infections can develop and lead to more severe diseases if fleas are left untreated. 

How do I examine my pet for fleas?

Adult fleas are small and brown and are easy to recognize on your pet. 

Have your pet lay down while you begin to brush them, these parasites are easier to spot while your pet is relaxed. Use their brush or comb and gently groom your animal while watching for the signs of fleas.

It is common to find flea dirt (flea feces) if your pet is experiencing a flea infestation and this will appear like wet sand or pepper on your pet's skin. 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. 

Why is my pet scratching without fleas?

If you have examined your pet for fleas but have not found any signs then your pet may be experiencing the symptoms of various allergies. It may be a good idea to visit 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.  

How should I treat fleas on my pet?

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. 

Have you discovered a flea infestation on your pet? It is imperative to treat right away. Book an appointment at Mountain View Veterinary Hospital today.