If you are a new pet parent, or your pets are lucky enough to have never experienced a flea problem, you may not know how to tell if your dog or cat has fleas. Early treatment is crucial in preventing a few fleas from becoming an infestation that is more difficult to completely eradicate. |
As fleas continue to multiply, what started as just a small flea problem can result in a flea infestation throughout your home. The sooner you treat fleas on your dog or cat, the quicker you will eradicate the problem, so it is important to recognize the signs of fleas as early as possible.
Fleas are terribly itchy and uncomfortable, so one of the first signs that your pet has fleas is frequent scratching, biting at his coat, or in cats, excessive grooming. The excessive scratching, licking and grooming may result in hair loss or hot spots.
Another sign to look for is "flea dirt," which is actually the flea's waste product after digesting a meal of blood from your pet. Flea dirt looks like spots of black pepper, and you may see it on your pet, on your pet's bedding and other places he frequents. To confirm the black specks are actually flea dirt, place some on a wet paper towel; flea dirt will change to a rusty-reddish color, because the flea dirt is made of digested blood. If you see flea dirt on or around your pet, you can be sure your pet has fleas.They are the leading cause of itchiness (pruritis), scratching and skin irritation in companion dogs. Fleas cause some degree of irritation simply by crawling around on a dog's skin. Inevitably, once they settle on a host, they quickly begin to dine. The most frequently affected areas are the rump, thighs, tail base, belly, flanks and upper arms especially under the arm pits.
Owners of dogs with fleas may notice one or more of the following signs in those or other areas:
Scratching Licking Chewing Biting Rubbing Skin abrasions (sores) - often red, raw, weeping and/or bloody Pus oozing out of skin sores (pyoderma) – caused by secondary bacterial infection Patchy areas of hair loss (alopecia) Tapeworm segments on or around the dog's anus and in the stool Tapeworm larvae on or around the dog's anus and in the stool (look like rice)
A dog's self-mutilation in reaction to flea bites sets the stage for potentially devastating secondary bacterial skin infections, which can be fatal. Many dogs that do not have flea allergies still develop severe flea bite dermatitis as a result of the mechanical skin irritation caused by these biting bugs.
In addition to causing skin damage, fleas can carry and transmit a number of potentially serious diseases. Fleas are intermediate hosts for Dipylidium caninum tapeworms. Dogs that ingest adult fleas during their licking and chewing episodes are at high risk for becoming infected with these tapeworms. Children can also develop tapeworm infections if they get fleas into their mouths through any route.
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