How do I tell if my pet has fleas?

Is your pet scratching, losing hair, or developing a skin rash or sores?  If so your pet may have fleas!  In this area fleas can be a year-round problem but they tend to be the worst in the warmer months.   They can be hard to spot as they are smaller than a quarter inch in size and very fast; they can be especially hard to see on pets with long or black fur (given fleas are black they blend in very well in black coated animals).  You can try parting the fur and looking at the skin directly to search for fleas– they especially love to live on the rump, neck, around the ears, and on the belly.  If you don’t see any fleas but see little black specks that look like dirt or pepper in your pet’s coat place these specks on a white paper towel or napkin, drop a little water on them, and then rub them across the paper towel.  If the area around the speck turns red then this is flea feces (also known as flea dirt) and your pet does have fleas.  Given fleas eat your pets blood their feces is full of dried blood, which is why wetting it will make the blood become apparent.  You can also get a flea comb and run it through your pet’s coat in multiple areas to search for fleas – the comb’s teeth are so fine, they trap the fleas and flea dirt so you can see them.   If your pet has fleas see your vet ASAP as they will need a monthly prevention for AT LEAST 3 months (this is the minimum amount of time it takes to fully get rid of them as all eggs in the environment need to hatch and these fleas hop onto your pet to die).  We are currently recommending the oral monthly prevention NexGard for dogs and topical monthly prevention Revolution for cats.   If the fleas have caused your pet to lose hair or develop a skin rash or sores then your pet likely has an allergy to fleas too and will need additional medication – so make an appointment for your pet to be seen immediately.

Have you ever had to deal with a flea infestation?  What was your experience?

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