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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?

Fleas are one of the most common external parasites in the world and are capable of making your pet absolutely miserable. If they aren't promptly treated, they may even lead to infectious diseases for more serious health issues. Here, our Capitola vets explain the early signs fo fleas and what to do if your pet has them.

What are fleas?

Fleas are external parasites that rely on a host animal for survival. Unless steps are taken to break their lifecycle, adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive on your pet - and in your household. 

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 or red bumps may also appear on their belly, between the legs and on their behind. Their contact scratching will cause dry skin and hair loss in these areas. If the fleas aren't promptly treated, they can cause lesions and infections that may develop into more severe health issues too. 

How can I check my pet for fleas?

Adult fleas are relatively easy to spot with your naked eye. They have small brown bodies. 

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," or flea feces as well. This substance looks quite similar to small grains of sand or black pepper when wet. To check your pet for flea dirt or flea feces, use a fine-toothed comb you can find at your vet's office and comb your pet's back and underbelly. Standing them on a white towel as you do so will let you 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 flea treatments to eliminate these external parasites. These include powders, topical liquids, sprays and more. You may also need to get a prescription cream or antibiotic from your vet if your pet's case is more serious.

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

Do you think your pet may have a severe case of fleas? Prompt treatment is key. Book an appointment at Santa Cruz Veterinary Hospital today.

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

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