Fleas are the most common external parasite that can affect your dog or cat. Here, our 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 in your home, and on your dog, cat or small mammal, until you break their lifecycle.
What signs of flea infestation should I look for?
Pets 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 pet.
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 pet to the veterinarian 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 vet about flea prevention options.
If my ferret or rabbit has fleas what should I do to get rid of them?
Do not use flea treatments formulated for dogs or cats on your small mammal. Only use treatments specifically created to treat fleas on your type of pet. It's always a good idea to contact your vet to find out which flea treatment is right for your pet.