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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?

Our vets see pets with fleas more than any other external parasite, and fleas can make your cat or dog miserable. If you don't treat your pet's fleas quickly they can lead to serious infections and diseases. Here, our vets in Lancaster discuss the early signs of fleas, and what you can do to find and treat them.

What are fleas?

Fleas are external parasites that need an animal host to survive. Unless you take the proper steps to get rid of them, the adult fleas will keep reproducing and flourishing on your pet and in your home. 

Signs of a Flea Infestation

Your cat or dog could be allergic to a protein in the flea's saliva, which can make the scratch immediately after they have been bitten by a flea. Just one little flea bite can make your pet agitated and excessively scratch. Cats and dogs may be allergic to the protein in flea saliva, which is why they often start to scratch as soon as a flea bites their skin.

Other than scratching, pimples or red bumps can appear on your companion's belly, at the base of their tail, on their groin, on their behind, or beneath their legs. If your pet continuously itches and scratches at these areas their skin will become dry and they will lose hair. They could also develop lesions and infections which could lead to more serious diseases if the fleas aren't treated. 

Checking Your 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 see "flea dirt". This looks similar to tiny grains of sand, or black pepper when wet. 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 to do if You Can’t Find Fleas, but Your Pet is Still Scratching

If you are unable to find any signs of fleas but your cat or dog is still scratching, make an appointment with your veterinarian. At this visit, your vet will conduct a skin test to look for flea allergies, as well as other types of allergies. Your furry friend could be reacting to another kind of allergen that's making them uncomfortable.  

How to Get Rid of Fleas if Your Cat or Dog Has 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 first methods of choice to make sure your cat or dog doesn't develop more serious problems in the future, as a result of fleas. 

If you have found evidence of fleas on your pet or they are excessively scratching, it's critical that they are treated quickly. Contact our Lancaster vets immediately to schedule an appointment.

Welcome New Patients

Sears Veterinary Hospital is now welcoming new cat and dog patients! We have a talented veterinary team that is passionate about providing the pets of Lancaster with the best care possible. Contact our office to book your cat or dog's first appointment today.

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(661) 948-5911