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

Left untreated, fleas can make your pet miserable, lead to infection and possibly cause more serious health issues.  Our Huntersville vets explain how to spot the signs of flea infestations so that you can detect them early and keep your pet healthy and happy.


What are fleas?

Fleas are external parasites that depend upon a host animal for their survival. Once your dog or cat picks up a flea they become a comfortable host for these unwanted pests. Until the flea's lifecycle is broken, they will continue to thrive and reproduce on your pet, and in your home.

What are the signs of flea infestations?

Any pet that is itching and scratching may be hosting fleas. In fact, your dog or cat may begin to itch and scratch as soon as a flea bites their skin. A single flea bite can cause pets to become agitated and scratch.

If you suspect that your pet has fleas, look for red pimples or bumps on your pet's groin, belly, under the legs, on their behind, or at the base of their tail.

Some pets will develop patches of dry skin or experience hair-loss as a result of continually scratching at flea bites. If left untreated, lesions and infection can develop and possibly lead to more serious conditions.

How can I check my pet for fleas?

Adult fleas are fairly easy to see with the naked eye, particularly on light colored pets. Fleas are small and brown, reddish-brown or black.

Examine your pet for fleas whenever you are grooming them. Check your pet's comb or brush frequently throughout grooming for signs of adult fleas. Look for adult fleas in thinly-haired areas like your pet's abdomen by having your pet lay on their side.

When checking your pet for signs of fleas, be sure to keep an eye out for fleas feces (or flea dirt) as you groom your pet. Flea dirt looks similar to black pepper or tiny grains of sand that turn red when wet.

To help you spot flea dirt, have your pet stand on a white blanket or towel while you groom them. Use a flea comb, available from your veterinary clinic, and just run the comb along your pet's underbelly and back and watch for black droppings fall from your pet, or trapped in the teeth of the comb.

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

If you don't see any signs of fleas but your pet is scratching or seems uncomfortable, it's time for a trip to the vet. Your veterinarian can test your dog or cat for flea allergies as well as other common allergies which could be causing your pet discomfort. 

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

Safe and effective treatment options are available to prevent or eliminate fleas, including powders, sprays, topical liquids and shampoos. In severe cases, your vet can prescribe creams and antibiotics to help make your pet feel better and eliminate fleas.

To keep your dog or cat happy and healthy, and to prevent more serious issues from developing, treat flea infestations as quickly as possible, or use preventive medication to avoid infestations from starting. 

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

Signs Your Pet May Have Fleas | Huntersville Vet

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