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

Fleas can make your pet uncomfortable! This common external parasite infects both cats and dogs. In this post, our Westport vets explain flea infestations and how they can lead to more serious diseases. 


What are flea infestations?

Like all parasites, fleas depend on a host animal for survival. This can often be a family cat or dog. 

Until you break the fleas' life cycle, adult fleas will keep reproducing, thriving in your home and on your pet. 

Catch flea infestations early by watching for these signs and symptoms, and checking your pet for fleas regularly. If there are no signs but your pet still seems uncomfortable, it may be worth taking them to see your vet as they may be suffering from another condition or allergy. 

There are many safe and effective flea treatment options on the market today, and your vet can advise on appropriate choices for your pet.  

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

Signs & Symptoms

Cats and dogs can be allergic to protein in flea saliva, which is why pets often feel itchy and start to scratch as soon as they are bitten by a flea. Did you know a single flea bite can lead pets to become agitated and scratch excessively?

After they're bitten, you may be able to see small inflamed bumps or pimples on your pet's groin, belly, at the base of the tail or on the backside, or under their legs. Constant itching and scratching can cause dry skin and hair loss in affected areas, and infections and lesions may develop, then lead to more serious diseases if the fleas are left untreated. 

How To Check Your Pet For Fleas

You'll find it relatively easy to spot small brown fleas with just your naked eye. 

As you groom your pet, it's a good iea to check their comb or brush for adult flees. For a more thorough inspection, have your pet lie on his or her side and check thinly haired areas such as the tummy and abdomen. 

Also look for flea feces (flea dirt), which can look similar to tiny grains of sand that turn red when wet - or sometimes like black pepper. To see flea dirt, have your pet stand on a white cloth or towel, then comb through their fur with a fine-toothed flea comb you can find at your get's office. As you comb your pet, watch for black droppings on the towel. When combing for fleas and looking for them, pay extra mind to your pet's underside and belly. 

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

Schedule an appointment with your vet if your dog or cat seems uncomfortable, even if there are no obvious signs of fleas. Your vet can perform a skin test to check for flea allergies. Your pet may also be experiencing another type of allergy, and your vet can test for these at the checkup. 

How To Get Rid of Fleas

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

Prompt treatment and appropriate prescriptions are the best ways to ensure your dog or cat doesn't develop more serious issues down the road due to flea infection. 

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

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

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203-259-3647