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

Fleas are the most common external parasite that can affect your dog or cat. Here, our Clemmons vet explains how to spot fleas on your pet and what you can do to get rid of fleas.


What are fleas?

Fleas are an external parasite that depend upon a host animal for their survival. Once fleas find your pet, the adult fleas will reproduce and thrive on your dog, and in your home, until you break their lifecycle. 

What signs of flea infestation should I look for?

Dogs and cats that are allergic to the protein in flea saliva, will itch or scratch as soon as a flea bites their skin. A single flea bite can cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated.

As well as itching, red pimples or bumps on your pet's groin, belly, under the legs, or at the base of their tail may be a sign that your pet has fleas. Hair loss and dry skin due to scratching may also be a sign of fleas on your dog or cat.

Leaving fleas untreated can lead to lesions and infection, or even develop into more severe diseases.

How can I check my pet for fleas?

To look for fleas, comb or brush your pet carefully, regularly examining the brush or comb for adult fleas. During grooming, be sure to examine thinly haired areas, like your pet's abdomen, for signs of fleas.

Adult fleas are small, brown and easy to see with the naked eye. However, when checking your pet for signs of fleas, also keep an eye out for flea feces (flea dirt). Flea dirt looks similar to black pepper or tiny grains of sand that turn red when wet. 

Have your pet stand over a white towel or sheet while you groom them. This will make the dark flea dirt easy to spot as it falls onto the fabric while your pet is being groomed.

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

Bring your dog or cat to the vet if they seem uncomfortable but there are no signs of fleas. Veterinarians can administer a skin test to check for flea allergies, and also test your pet for other possible allergies. 

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

Effective treatment options to prevent or eliminate fleas are available from your vet and include powders, sprays, shampoos and topical liquids. Your vet may prescribe creams and antibiotics in severe cases.

Prevention and prompt treatment of fleas are the best ways to ensure that your dog or cat doesn't develop more serious issues down the road. Speak to your Clemmons vet about flea prevention options.

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

Signs That Your Pet Has Fleas | Winston-Salem Vet

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