How to Check for Fleas that Could be Triggering Your Pet’s Allergies
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on March 27, 2018
Posted in Pet Allergies
Few things have the power to frustrate pet owners like fleas do. These little critters can be the bane of your home and a nuisance to both you and your furry friend, causing everything from allergies to itchiness and more. Worse still, it can seem like an impossible task to get rid of them, even after baths, sprays, flea collars and vet visits. It’s best to make sure any fleas are discovered and eradicated quickly.
The first and foremost sign of fleas in your home is a pet that just can’t seem to stop itching. At first, it might look like they’ve just found “that spot” that makes them go wild. But, it won’t be long before the itching and scratching becomes persistent. Some examples include:
- Waking up abruptly from a nap to itch
- Stopping dead in their tracks while walking to itch
- Constantly rubbing up against furniture or walls to itch
- Excessive grooming in particular areas
More likely than anything, a pet exhibiting these symptoms is one that’s playing host to fleas. To make sure, you’ll have to get up close and personal to check.
How to check for fleas
To check for fleas, you’ll need to brush your pet and look carefully for any fleas that may be present. If you have a long-haired cat or shaggy dog, this can be hard, so be sure to pay special attention to make sure you don’t miss any potential fleas that may turn up during the brushing.
A smart idea is to put a white paper towel under your pet while you brush. Often, brushing for fleas can turn up “flea dirt,” which drops onto the paper towel as black specks. Not only is this a sign that fleas are present, it’s also a good indicator as to what the level of a flea problem might be.
Start by running a comb or brush over your cat or dog’s neck and back. After a few strokes, see if anything has fallen onto the paper towel. Also, be sure to check the comb. Fleas often cling to the comb as you’re brushing your pet and should be submerged in water to kill them before they have a chance to jump off! If you don’t get anything on the first few passes, keep at it until you’re sure there are no fleas.
Another good tip is to inspect any areas where your dog or cat has been especially persistent with their itching. Move their fur around to see if you can spot any fleas and check for any redness or irritation at the site as further evidence of a flea problem.
Get rid of fleas completely
If you discover that your furry friend has fleas, it’s important to act quickly and address the situation thoroughly. Even one or two missed fleas can lay eggs that restart the entire problem all over again once they hatch.
The first thing to do is to make sure your pet is thoroughly bathed to remove all fleas. There are special flea shampoos out there specifically for these situations, however, a simple bath will often work to get rid of them. But it doesn’t stop there! Without proper protection, those pesky fleas will just hop back on. It’s important to treat your pet with some sort of repellent or flea collar that makes them uninviting to these pests. In this case, natural flea repellents are best, since your pet is likely already dealing with some level of skin irritation from all the itching.
Finally, you need to make sure fleas aren’t just biding their time elsewhere in your home. Do a thorough vacuuming of everything, wash blankets and bedding, and consider treating your home with a gentle flea repellent (again, all-natural). A clean home is one that’s less inviting to these little critters.
Schedule a vet appointment
It’s also important to talk to a qualified vet if you find yourself in a flea situation. For one, you’ll want to have your pet checked out to make sure they’re okay. Skin irritation and allergies like Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) are miserable for a pet to live with. A vet could provide answers to helping your furry friend get past these issues—topical creams, for example.
A vet can also help you figure out if your pet’s flea-induced itching and allergies have any other effect on their health. For example, ingesting flea eggs can sometimes lead to a tapeworm, which brings with it a whole host of new health issues. Having your pet checked out at the vet can nip these types of problems in the bud.
Flea allergies can be a huge source of discomfort and irritation for your pet. Keep an eye out for excessive itching to signal fleas. With proper treatment and a visit to the vet, you can help protect your pet (and your home) from the ongoing frustration of a flea infestation.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan