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

The most common external parasite that can affect your dog or cat is fleas. Fleas can make your pet miserable if left untreated, but can also lead to infection and cause more serious diseases. To help you detect fleas early, below, our Memphis vets share some signs of flea infestations and ways to keep your pet happy and healthy.


What are fleas?

Fleas, like all parasites, depend upon a host animal for their survival – in this case, your cat or dog's blood. Until their lifecycle is broken, adult fleas can continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet.

What signs of flea infestation should I look for?

Both dogs and cats can be allergic to the protein in flea saliva, this can cause your pet to itch or scratch as soon as the flea bites them. A single flea bite can cause your pet to scratch excessively and become agitated.

One telltale sign that your pet might have fleas is the appearance of red pimples or bumps on your pet's groin, belly, under the legs, on their behind, or at the base of their tail. Hair loss and dry skin can result from constant itching or scratching of these areas. Lesions and infection can develop and lead to more severe diseases if left untreated.

How can I check my pet for fleas?

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

Regularly check your pet's comb or brush during weekly grooming sessions. Have your pet lie on their side and check thinly-haired areas like the abdomen in order to to get a closer look.

It's also a good idea to keep an eye out for adult flea feces (or flea dirt). Flea feces looks similar to black pepper or tiny grains of sand that turn red when wet. A fine-toothed flea comb, available from your vet, is great for combing along your pet's underbelly and back and looking for flea dirt. Having your pet stand on a white towel or cloth while you brush them is a helpful way to see if any black droppings fall off of your pet during grooming.

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

Bring your dog or cat in to see your vet if there is no sign of fleas but your pet seems uncomfortable. Skin tests are available at your vet's office to check for flea allergies. Of course, it could be that your pet is experiencing another type of allergy which your vet can also diagnose during your appointment.

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

There are a number of safe, effective treatment options to prevent or eliminate fleas: from powders and sprays to shampoos and topical liquids. You may need to contact your vet in severe cases. Your vet can prescribe creams and antibiotics if required to help make your pet more comfortable.

The best ways to ensure that your pet doesn't develop more serious issues down the road is through prevention and prompt treatment.

'Bundling' a year's worth of preventative healthcare services and products allows us to offer you reduced pricing. Choose the Wellness Plan that's right for your pet.

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