Flea infestation and subsequent flea bite allergy are very common in both dogs and cats, especially as the warmer spring and summer months approach. Severe flea infestation may lead to flea bite anemia especially in younger puppies and kittens, as well as increase the risk for certain infectious diseases such as bartonella, and parasitic conditions including tapeworms. Because of the health risk in both pets and people, it is important to be diligent in implementing a flea control program in our companion animals. Flea4X and Flea3X are exciting newer generics now available from 1800PetMeds for flea control.
The simplest way to evaluate if a pet is suffering from flea infestation is to do a thorough visual exam of the hair, especially in areas around the tail and groin, particularly in dogs, as well as around the head and neck of cats. Even with very few fleas, allergic pets may itch excessively and sometimes create skin eruptions and bleeding, as well as losing varying amounts of fur.
Dogs may develop a characteristic “Christmas tree” pattern of hair loss down both sides of the lower back. Cats often develop scabby eruptions throughout the coat, which is known as miliary dermatitis. Other cats may develop ulcerating skin lesions or raised plaques, known as EGC (eosinophilic granuloma complex).
In most pets, adult fleas may be identified by close examination of these affected areas. Especially in longer haired pets, detecting a few fleas may be difficult. In these cases, obtaining a flea comb can be immensely helpful. These fine-toothed combs will detect not only adult fleas, but immature life stages of the flea, as well as dark particles in the hair coat known as flea dirt. When this flea dirt is run under running water, the black particles will typically turn red, thus indicating the presence of dried blood from active fleabites on the animal.
Remember, it is far better to prevent a flea problem than it is to actively treat one, given how rapidly fleas reproduce on the animal and in the environment.