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

Fleas can make your pet miserable! They are the most common external parasite that can affect your dog or cat. If left untreated fleas can lead to infection or more serious diseases. Here, our vets explain. 


Flea Infestation

Fleas, like all parasites, depend upon a host animal for their survival – often a family dog or cat.

Until you manage to break the fleas' life cycle adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive in your home and on your pet.

Detect flea infestations early by watching for these signs and symptoms. 

Signs and symptoms of fleas

Signs & Symptoms

Dogs and cats can be allergic to the protein in flea saliva, which is why pets often itch or scratch as soon as they are bitten by a flea. A single flea bite can lead pets to scratch excessively or become agitated .

Small inflamed pimples or bumps may be visible on your pet's belly, groin, under the legs, at the base of their tail or on their backside. Hair loss and dry skin can be caused by constant itching or scratching of the affected areas. Lesions and infection can develop and lead to more severe diseases if fleas are left untreated.

How To Check Your Pet For Fleas

It's relatively easy to spot small brown adult fleas with the naked eye.

Whenever you're grooming your pet it's a good idea to check your pet's comb or brush for adult fleas. To be more thorough, get your pet to lie on their side and check thinly-haired areas like the abdomen and tummy.

Also watch for out for flea feces (or flea dirt) which looks similar to tiny grains of sand that turn red when wet or sometimes like black pepper. To spot flea dirt have your pet stand on a white towel or cloth then comb through your pet's fur with a fine-toothed flea comb, available from your vet. As you comb your pet watch for black dropping on the towel. Pay extra attention to your pet's underside and belly when combing for signs of fleas. 

I Can’t See fleas, But My Pet is Still Scratching

Make an appointment to see your vet if there are no obvious signs of fleas but your cat or dog seems uncomfortable. A skin test to check for flea allergies can be administered by your vet. There is also a chance that your pet is experiencing another type of allergy which your vet can test for during your appointment.

How To Get Rid of Fleas

Fortunately there are a number of safe, effective treatment options to eliminate and prevent fleas. Treatment options include powders, sprays, shampoos and topical solutions. If your pet has a more severe case of fleas contact your vet to find out about creams and antibiotics that are available by prescription only.

Prevention and prompt treatment are the best ways to ensure that your dog or cat doesn't develop more serious issues down the road.

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

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Providence Animal Hospital has been providing comprehensive veterinary care for your cherished pets in Charlotte since 1993.

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