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How can I tell if my cat or dog has fleas?

How can I tell if my cat or dog has fleas?

There are many external parasites but, fleas are the most common. If they go without treatment, fleas can cause infections as well as other severe diseases. In this blog, Our Pittsboro vets discuss the early signs of a flea infestation, as well as the steps you can take to help your pet if they do have fleas.


Fleas are a type of external parasite that requires an animal host to survive. Unless you take the proper steps to end their life cycle, adult fleas will keep reproducing and thriving on your pet and in your home. 

Signs of a Flea Infestation

Your cat or dog could be allergic to a protein in the flea's saliva, which often makes them scratch just after being bitten by a flea. One lonely flea bite can make a pet agitated and excessively scratch. 

Other than scratching, red bumps or pimples could develop on your pet's belly, at the base of their tail, on their behind, under their legs, or on their groin. Continuous itching and scratching of these areas can lead to dry skin and hair loss. Lesions and infections may also develop and cause more severe diseases if the fleas go untreated. 

Checking Your Cat or Dog for Fleas

Adult fleas are small and brown and are generally fairly easy to see with the naked eye. 

We recommend checking your pet's brush or comb when you are grooming them. Having your pet lie on their side will allow you to get a closer look at areas that have thin hair, such as the abdomen. 

You might find "flea dirt" which looks like tiny grains of sand, or black pepper when wet. To check for flea dirt (feces), use a fine-tooth flea comb available at your vet's office to comb along your pet's back and underbelly. By standing your pet on a white towel or cloth while brushing them, you will be able to easily see any black droppings that fall from their fur. 

You Can't Find Fleas & Your Pet is Still Scratching

If can't detect any signs of fleas but your cat or dog is still scratching, make an appointment with your veterinarian, who will implement a skin test to check for flea allergies, in addition to other types of allergies during your visit. Your pet may be reacting to another type of allergy that's making them uncomfortable.  

How to Get Rid of Your Pet's Fleas

A number of safe and effective treatments can be used to eliminate fleas, including shampoos, sprays, powders, and topical liquids. You may need to visit your vet for prescription creams and antibiotics if your pet's case is more severe. 

Early treatment and prevention are the first methods of choice to ensure your dog doesn't develop more serious issues in the future, as a result of fleas. 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our Pittsboro vets if you believe your pet has a severe case of fleas.

Welcoming New Patients

Our vets at Hope Crossing Animal Hospital are now accepting new patients! Our talented veterinary team is passionate about caring for the pets of Pittsboro. Contact us today to book your first appointment. 

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