We don’t want to think about it, and it is certainly no fun to deal with, but any pet can get fleas.
Does My Pet Have Fleas?
Dogs and cats can itch for lots of reasons. One of the most common reasons that we see itchy dogs and cats losing hair is because they have fleas. It only takes a few fleas on your pet to make them itchy (especially if they have a flea allergy). There usually needs to be a lot of fleas on your pet before you start seeing signs of fleas (other than the itchiness).
How Can I Tell if My Pet Has Fleas?
These signs are good indicators that your pet probably has fleas.
- Finding fleas. This is pretty much a dead ringer. If you see fleas – even just one flea – it’s time to rethink your flea prevention strategy. If you see one flea, you can bet that he has lots of friends hiding out somewhere near by. A good place to find fleas if on your pet’s belly. The fur tends to be thinner there on dogs and cats, and it is sometimes easier to find fleas in this area.
- Finding flea dirt. Have you seen little black specks in spots where your dog or cat likes to lay down? Do you find these black specks in their fur? The next time you see these specks, put a few drops of water on them. If the specks dissolve and turn red, you’ve got “flea dirt.” This is the best indicator that your pet has fleas, since there is nothing else that reacts this way!
- Itching. Yes, itching can mean a lot of different things. Fleas biting your dog or cat can make them itchy. If they have a flea allergy, just one or two flea bites can make them unbearably itchy. To add to the confusion, not all pets get itchy when they have fleas! If your pet is itchy, it’s time to call us or come in for an examination to see if fleas are the culprit, or if it’s another problem.
- Finding flea eggs. Flea eggs can be much harder to see than flea dirt. But if there is dirt, there are also eggs. Flea eggs are super-tiny, white, shiny ovals. Because they are so small and white, they are very hard to see. You might find them mixed in with the flea dirt, if you look very closely.
- Hair loss. We don’t always notice when our dogs are itchy, or when our cats are grooming a little too much. But over time, these behaviors can lead to hair loss. Most of the time (but not always), this is associated with fleas. If your dog or cat has a flea allergy, hair loss can happen in just a matter of days!
- Finding tapeworm segments. Almost all fleas carry tapeworms, a kind of intestinal parasite. When your dog or cat eats those fleas while they are licking (because they are itchy), they are also eating the tapeworms. These tapeworms set up shop in your dog’s or cat’s intestines. There aren’t many signs that your dog or cat has tapeworms, but one sure sign is finding tapeworm segments on your pet’s stool. If you see something that looks like small grains of rice on your pet’s poop or on their fur around their bottom, that’s a good sign that your pet has fleas (or has had them sometime recently). Although many flea prevention medicines also treat intestinal parasites, most do not treat tapeworms. If you see tapeworm segments, call us or come in for an examination. We can discuss the best way to treat the fleas, and our veterinarians can prescribe a medicine to treat the tapeworms.
How Can I Get Rid of the Fleas?
The best way to get rid of fleas is to use a monthly flea prevention medicine. That’s right, prevention medicines are the best way to get rid of fleas. In addition to repelling fleas from your pet, these medicines will also kill the fleas, or make them unable to reproduce. We have some great tips on how to apply topical medicines, and get the most out of your monthly topical flea prevention medicines.
Once you have fleas in your house, they can be very difficult to get rid of. Again, the best way to deal with fleas in your house is by using regular flea prevention medicines on all of your pets. There are plenty of “over the counter” flea control medicines, house sprays, or house bombs available. These don’t all work, and some of them can be very dangerous if they are used incorrectly. We do recommend one brand of house spray to get rid of fleas, and we have that available for sale at our office. Here are some other tips for getting fleas out of your house.
Do you think your pet has fleas? Call us or come in for an examination. Our veterinary technicians or our veterinarians can tell if your pet has fleas. If your pet does have fleas, we can make recommendations for the best way to get rid of them, and to keep them from coming back!
Check out our Fleas Resource Page for even more information about fleas!