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How can I tell if my cat or dog has fleas?

Fleas are the most common external parasite in the world are capable of making your pet absolutely miserable! If not promptly treated, they may even cause infections or other serious diseases. Here, our Wisconsin Dells vets explain the early signs of fleas and what to do if your pet becomes infested.

What are fleas?

Fleas are external parasites that rely on their host animal for survival. Unless careful steps are taken to break the lifecycle of fleas, they will continue to thrive and reproduce on your pet and in your home. 

What signs of flea infestation should I look for?

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. Even one flea bite may cause pets to scratch excessively and become agitated. 

Besides the expected scratching pimples and red bumps may appear on your pet's belly, at the base of their tail and between their legs. Their constant itching of these areas will cause dry skin and loss of hair. If left for long enough, lesions and infection may also develop and cause much more serious health issues if not promptly treated. 

How can I check my 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 also see "flea dirt." This substance looks similar to small grains of sand or black pepper when wet. In order to check for flea dirt (feces), use a fine-toothed comb like those available at your vet's office in order 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 if I can’t find any fleas, but my pet is still scratching?

If there are no signs of fleas but your pet is still scratching, schedule an appointment with your vet, who can administer a skin test to check for flea allergies, in addition to other types of allergies during your visit. Your pet may be reacting to another type of allergy that's making them uncomfortable.  

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

There are a number of safe and effective treatments that can be used to eliminate fleas, including powders, sprays, and topical liquids. You may need to visit your veterinarian for prescriptions for creams for antibiotics if our pet's case if more serious.

Early treatment and prevention are the first methods of choice to ensure your dog doesn't develop more serious issues in the future, as a result of fleas. 

Do you think your dog may have a severe case of fleas? Prompt treatment is key. Book an appointment at Dells Animal Hospital today.

New Patients Welcome

Dells Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Wisconsin Dells companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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