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

Posted Jul 30th, 2019 in Dogs, Cats, Wellness Plans, Conditions

Fleas can make your pet miserable! If left untreated, fleas can lead to infection and possibly cause more serious diseases.  Here's a little from our Memphis vets on how to spot the signs of flea infestations so that you can detect them early and keep your pet healthy.


What are fleas?

Fleas are parasites. Like all parasites, fleas depend upon a host animal for their survival. Your dog or cat could easily become a host for these unwanted pests. Fleas will continue to thrive and reproduce on your pet, and in your home, until you step in and break their lifecycle.

What signs of flea infestation should I look for?

Itching and scratching is a common sign that your pet may be hosting fleas. This occurs because cats and dogs can be allergic to the protein in flea saliva. Pets may begin to itch or scratch as soon as the flea bites their skin. Just a single flea bite could cause your pet to scratch excessively and become agitated.

Another common sign that your dog or cat 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. You may notice hair loss and dry skin in these areas if your pet is continually itching and scratching. Lesions and infection can develop and lead to more severe diseases if fleas are left untreated.

How can I check my pet for fleas?

Adult fleas are relatively easy to see with the naked eye. Generally, they're small and brown.

During regular grooming sessions, it's a good idea to check your pet's comb or brush for signs of fleas. Have your pet lie on their side and thoroughly check for fleas in thinly-haired areas like your pet's abdomen.

Flea combs are available from your vet's office and are an excellent way to spot flea feces on your pet. Fleas feces (or flea dirt) looks similar to black pepper or tiny grains of sand that turn red when wet. When looking for flea feces just run a fine-toothed flea comb along your pet's underbelly or back. It may be helpful to have your pet stand on a white towel or cloth while you brush them. This will help you to see any black droppings that fall from your pet.

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

If there are no signs of fleas but your cat or dog seems uncomfortable, bring them to your vet. A skin test to check for flea allergies is available at your vet's office. It's possible that your pet is experiencing another type of allergy if they are itching and scratching but no fleas are present. Your vet will also be able to diagnose other allergies during your visit.

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, including powders, sprays, shampoos and topical liquids. If your pet has a more severe case, you may need to contact your vet who can prescribe creams and antibiotics to help eliminate the fleas and make your pet feel better.

Preventing fleas, or prompt treatment as soon as you notice fleas, are the best ways to ensure that your dog or cat doesn't develop more serious issues resulting from these parasites.

Flea prevention is part of our annual Wellness Plans. Choose the Wellness Plan that's right for your pet.

Looking for a vet in Cordova and greater Memphis area?

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

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