Has your furry friend been scratching and itching a lot recently? It may be due to a flea bite. Flea bites are extremely common, and many pets get them at least once in their life.
If you notice a flea infestation or flea bites on your pets, working quickly to eradicate them is the best line of treatment. Taking immediate action will relieve your pets of irritation and help prevent infections from the bite.
In this article, we’ll take you through what fleas are, the signs and symptoms of flea bites in dogs and cats, potential infections that they can get from bites, and how to treat them.
What Are Fleas?
Fleas are pesky insects that are as big as the tip of a pen.
What do fleas look like? They are brown or black in color, wingless and have hard and flat outer shells. Their thin bodies enable them to burrow inside your pet’s fur or hair without being seen.
They typically feast on your pet’s blood and lay eggs.
Even though we can see an adult flea with our naked eyes, they move very fast by jumping from place to place. They reproduce even faster. If you spot a flea, you’ll have to squish it between your fingernails or two hard surfaces to kill it.
What Does a Flea Bite Look Like?
Once your pet has been bitten, they might lick or scratch the affected area a lot. Carefully part their hair or fur and you might notice the bites. Round, red and raised bumps on your pet’s skin are signs of a flea bite.
Another telltale sign that your pet is being affected by fleas is flea dirt. This “dirt” is actually feces that fleas leave behind. It can look like tiny particles of dirt, or specks of black pepper. Run a fine-toothed comb through their hair and see if any dirt collects on it.
Sometimes, you can even spot flea eggs. What do flea eggs look like? They’re white and resemble very tiny grains of rice.
If you spot one flea on your pet, chances are, there are many more you can’t see.
Symptoms of Flea Bites
Let’s get into why these annoying bugs are the bane of your dog or cat’s existence. Here are some common symptoms of flea bites.
Excessive Scratching or Licking
You might notice changes in your pet’s behavior like excessive scratching and itching in one spot. They’ll also tend to lick the affected area more than usual. A flea’s bite triggers an immune response which results in severe itching.
Red Bumps or Clusters
As mentioned before, a flea bite looks like small red bumps on your furry friend’s skin. These tiny spots can come in clusters of three or four and might have a faint red ring around them.
If there are scabs, rashes, and patches of balding on your pup or cat’s skin, it's probably a result of excessive scratching. This is another symptom of fleas and their bites.
Topical Bacterial Infection
When dogs or cats excessively scratch, lick, or try to bite the affected area, their skin becomes vulnerable to irritation and breaking. Without intending to, they can lacerate their skin.
This leaves your pup more prone to getting a topical bacterial infection. Infections can cause more problems like pus and can take a long time to heal.
Sometimes, your pup or cat can be allergic to flea bites. When the flea bites the skin of your pet, their saliva enters the bloodstream, causing an allergic reaction. This can lead to minor inflammation and persistent itching.
Flea Bites on Cats and Dogs
Typically, cat flea bites happen around the neck, at the base of their tail, and along their spines. Fleas can even bite cats on their bellies. Carefully check their body for flea dirt, adult fleas, or eggs.
A flea on a dog will commonly leave its bite on the groin, the hind legs, their tails, and the skin around their rib cages.
Treatment of Flea Bites
Approaching your vet is the first step to taking action against flea bites. If it’s mild, a vet may prescribe topical creams or ointments to soothe the irritation. Larger infestations call for oral flea treatments such as pills and depot injections.
Oral pills help keep allergies from flea bites at bay by reducing inflammation. Flea shampoos, washes, and flea pet spray are also great options for locally killing any fleas or flea eggs and getting rid of flea dirt. Use them according to your vet’s instructions or the package label.
Remember, ointments and washes for dogs and cats are made differently. A product suitable for a cat might not be okay to use on a dog, and vice versa. Get a thorough consultation, diagnosis, and prescription from your vet to cure your pets of flea bites.
Sometimes, vets can prescribe a cone for your cat or pup to wear so they don’t lick or bite the affected area and give it an opportunity to heal.
To avoid infestation from recurring, you must understand that treating a flea bite is a holistic process. It involves not just treating the bitten area, but ensuring that your home and the surrounding area where you and your pet spend time is free of fleas.
This means that if you have even one infected pet, you need to check your carpets, beddings, rugs, outside yard, and your other pets for fleas.
Flea-proof your apartment or home by washing all the beddings and rugs. Attach a flea collar to your vacuum bag and clean the carpet to catch any pesky fleas. Disinfect the dog or cat’s toys with hot water and soap.
Another prudent prevention method is to get your pup or cat on a regular flea and tick preventative medication. Ask your vet for a medicine that will work for your pets. Brush their fur or hair regularly, and maintain proper grooming!
Conclusion: A Clean Environment Free of Fleas Is You and Your Pet’s Best Defense
While there are easy and accessible ways to treat flea bites, remember that the best way to keep fleas at bay is to maintain a sanitized environment. Even after flea bites have healed, be sure to prevent further infestation by regularly administering vet-approved flea and tick prevention measures.