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

Posted Dec 9th, 2019

Fleas are the most common external parasite that can affect your dog or cat. Our Waxhaw vet shares the most common signs and symptoms of fleas, and what you can do if you spot fleas on your pet.


Flea Infestation

Like all parasites, for their survival fleas require a host animal. Often fleas make our family dogs and cats their host.

Once they have been introduced to your home, adult fleas will continue to reproduce and thrive until you break their lifecycle.

Don't let fleas make your pet miserable.

To protect your pet and your home from the effects of fleas, early detection of infestation is key! Watch your pet for these signs and symptoms of fleas: 

Signs and symptoms of fleas  | Waxhaw Vet

Signs & Symptoms

Pets will often itch and scratch as soon as they are bitten by a single flea. This is because dogs and cats are often allergic to the protein in flea saliva. In fact, just one flea bite can lead pets to scratch excessively or become agitated .

To detect fleas on your pet, lookout for small inflamed pimples or bumps on your pet's belly, groin, under the legs, at the base of their tail or on their backside. The constant itching or scratching of the affected areas often leads to dry skin and hair loss. If fleas are left untreated, lesions and infection can develop and lead to more severe conditions.

How To Check Your Pet For Fleas

Even with the naked eye, it should be relatively easy to spot small brown adult fleas on you pet.

Check your pet's comb or brush for adult fleas whenever you're grooming your pet. Have your pet lie on their side and carefully check thinly-haired areas like their tummy and abdomen.

Flea feces (or flea dirt) looks similar to tiny grains of sand that turn red when wet or sometimes look like black pepper. It can be helpful to have your pet stand on a white towel while you groom them. The flea dirt will be easy to spot on the white background.

You may also want to comb your pet with a fine-tooth flea comb, available from your vet. Be sure to comb through the fur on  your pet's underside and belly when looking for signs of fleas. 

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

If your dog or cat appears to be uncomfortable but there are no obvious signs of fleas, see your vet. A skin test can be administered by your vet to check for flea allergies as well as other allergies that your pet may be suffering from. 

How To Get Rid of Fleas

Flea infestations can be treated or prevented in a number of ways including, powders, sprays, shampoos and topical solutions. Contact your vet to find out more about flea treatments appropriate for your pet. In more severe cases your vet may recommend creams and antibiotics for your pet that are available by prescription only.

To ensure that your dog or cat doesn't develop more serious issues down the road, fleas should be detected and treated as quickly as possible. Contact your Waxhaw vet for more information about flea prevention.

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

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Providence South Animal Hospital provides comprehensive veterinary care for your cherished pets in Waxhaw.

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704-843-0208