Does My Pet Have Fleas?

ScratchingDogIf you notice your dog or cat endlessly scratching, or licking and chewing at his or her paws, your first thought might not be, “Does my pet have fleas?” but it should be.

Fleas are small parasites that feast on the blood of animals and people. When their saliva comes in contact with the skin, it can cause an allergic reaction that includes itching, redness, swelling and irritation. Once fleas get established on your pet and in your home, it’s not long before everyone is miserable.

If you have ever battled fleas, you know how difficult they can be to get rid of. And you’ve also probably learned how important it is to prevent a flea problem in the first place.

But if this is your first time dealing with fleas, don’t lose hope. While treating a flea-infested pet and home can be somewhat costly and time consuming, it is a battle that can be won.

How Do I Know if My Pet Has Fleas?

Just because your pet is itchy does not mean that he or she has fleas.

There are lots of reasons for a pet to scratch, so before you blame your flea control products, check to make sure fleas are to blame. There are three easy ways to check for fleas at home:

  • Adult fleas are brown or black and are about the size of a pinhead. They tend to move very fast, and can be hard to spot on darker colored dogs and cats. To check for fleas, look at areas of your pet’s body that have less fur, like the abdomen or rump, or any areas of the body that have white fur.

  • Flea feces, or flea dirt, is black and resembles grains of black pepper. One easy way to tell if your pet has fleas is to place a white paper towel under your pet, and then vigorously pet or brush your pet’s fur. If you have a flea problem, the towel will be littered with flea dirt.

  • Run warm water on your pet, or place your pet in a warm tub of water and rub his or her fur. Flea dirt turns red when mixed with water, so don’t be alarmed. If the bath water stays clear, see your veterinarian for help determining the cause of your pet’s discomfort.

How to Break the Cycle of Fleas

Breaking the cycle of fleas can seem like a nightmare. Just when you think you have the infestation under control, you find another flea, and before you know it everyone is scratching again. Where most people make a mistake is by failing to treat all three areas where fleas collect at the same time: the pet, the house and the yard.

Pet Preventatives

There are a variety of preventative medications and after-the-fact products for treating your pet, including pills, topical or spot treatments, and shampoos. We have found that flea collars generally don’t help, especially after an infestation has already occurred.

It is important to remember that not all products are created equal, and not all products are safe for your pets and family. When you find fleas on your pet, it is best to place a quick call to your veterinarian, who can recommend the products that will work best for your pet’s needs.

Prevention At Home

Not all flea control products are safe for pets or children, so we recommend consulting with a pest control company if you have a flea infestation in your home or yard. If you find that fleas jump on you while indoors or outdoors, chances are you have a problem that needs professional help.

If the fleas are contained to your pet only, wash all bedding regularly as you treat your pet, and vacuum all floors, both carpeted and bare, twice a day.

A single flea can lay dozens of eggs per day and frequent vacuuming will help remove any that fall from your pet. Be sure to empty your vacuum cleaner outdoors to prevent reinfestation.

If you have any other flea-related questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We know that the problem can feel overwhelming, but we are here to help.