Dr Sophie Bell, a veterinary surgeon, looks into another myth of our mythbuster series. This time it's whether you'll know your dog has fleas because it will scratch at them.
I see fleas regularly in practice, even if the dog is not scratching. They are usually discovered when a pet is being examined for something unrelated.
Some pets do come in due to scratching and scabbing of the skin; normally seen along the back and under the chin, the common places where fleas tend to feed and hang out. But even these pets do not always have visible fleas. It is often a shock for owners to find out fleas are the cause.
How do I get rid of fleas?
We have produced a helpful guide on treating fleas, including some more detail on the flea lifecycle and some of the common questions about fleas.
Find out how to get rid of fleas on dogs?
Why is it that some animals become scabby, scratch, and lose fur but other pets show no signs of fleas?
Some pets can be covered in fleas, you can see them moving in the coat and when you wash them the water turns a pink red colour due to a mix of flea poo and blood. But in many cases, pets can appear unaffected.
Flea allergic dermatitis (FAD) is the term given to a dog or cat suffering itchy, red, and sore skin due to flea bites. It only takes one bite for some animals to have a reaction if they are extremely allergic to the flea’s saliva.
However, you can use tablets, spot-on flea treatment, or collars to help prevent fleas. Be sure to regularly check their coat and spray your home with a reputable and safe flea-killing spray.
Only 5% of fleas live on the animal, the remaining 95% are in the environment they live in.
You may not be aware but fleas carry tapeworm. If your pet has had fleas, it is likely they are now carrying tapeworm, so you need to look at your worming regime. Either use a vet-approved product or send a faecal sample away to check for their presence.
Common signs of tapeworm
- Weight loss
- Biting the tail head
- Excessive licking of the bottom
Sores may develop on the tail due to self-trauma, similar sores can also be seen with flea allergic dermatitis.
There is a bigger concern, and this is flea anaemia. Fleas feed on your pet's blood and a large infestation can put some animals at risk. This is predominately seen in young animals and or those suffering from another underlying disease. It is important that you regularly check your pet's coat and have flea prevention in place.
Anaemic animals maybe lethargic, have a fast heart rate and a pale colour to their gums.
Fleas can cause a large amount of irritation and stress for some pets. It can be worse during the warmer months but there is a year-round risk.
Don’t forget you can bring them into your home on your shoes and clothing, which will also put animals at risk.
Keep your pets protected and if you need further advice, speak to your vet.
Read our other Mythbusting Articles:
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- Mythbuster: A cold wet nose means my dog is healthy
- Mythbuster: There is no need to clean my pet's teeth
- Mythbuster: My dog has been vaccinated against kennel cough, which means they cannot catch it
- Mythbuster: Alabama Rot is contagious from dog to dog
- Mythbuster: Owners should stop feeding a cat or dog that is vomiting or has diarrhoea