There it is – that “thump, thump, thump” of your dog’s back leg on the ﬂoor that makes relaxation next to impossible for your pet. Many cats present with bald spots or streaks from licking itchy areas along their back or tail base. How do you know if fleas are causing all that itching? You need to look for fleas or flea dirt.
Fleas are really great at hiding and difficult to find without really flea combing a pet. Sometimes live fleas can be seen scurrying along the surface of your pet’s skin. Fleas appear as dark colored insects about the size of the head of a pin. Fleas dislike light, so looking for them within furry areas and on the pet’s belly and inner thighs can be your best way of finding them,
Dogs and cats often get infested with fleas through contact with other animals or contact with fleas in their environment. Fleas don’t have wings to fly, but they do have strong back legs that enable them to jump from host to host or from the environment onto the host animal or human.
The flea’s bite can cause itching for the dog or cat. Unfortunately, if the pet is hypersensitive or flea-allergic, this itching can be become severe and lead to hair-loss, inflammation and secondary skin infections. Even a single flea bite could cause a severe reaction to pets who are hypersensitive to the flea’s saliva.
It’s important to rule out fleas as the cause of the itchy pet because ﬂeas are everywhere. Fleas not only live outdoors in warm weather, they can live indoors, even in really clean homes, year-round and in any climate. Fleas will gladly hitch a ride on your pet into your house. Remember, all it takes is one ﬂea bite to set off a full-blown skin allergy. Your pet may scratch their sides and neck or even lick their paws until they’re red and painful.
If a ﬂea has bitten your pet and it’s not treated, you’ll have many problems on your hands:
- A little itch can develop into a full-blown skin infection, making life for your pet miserable.
- Fleas can infect cats with a microscopic parasite that can live undetected in their red blood cells for years before causing a severe deadly anemia.
- Fleas may infest your house. People can get flea related diseases like cat scratch fever and Remember ﬂeas just take a quick “blood meal” when they bite your pet. The rest of their lives are spent in your house – and ﬂea eggs can lay dormant in carpets, on ﬂoors or in the sofa for months to a year.
- How do you prevent your cat or dog from bringing home more ﬂeas?
What’s the good news? You can count on your veterinarian to help derail the whole ﬂea problem. We’re experts when it comes to ﬂea allergies and ﬂea prevention for your pets. Prevention is simple and affordable. Discuss with your veterinarian the best options for keeping the whole family (both furry and human) ﬂea-free.
Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital