Fleas are a really common problem, so if you’ve struggled to keep your pets flea-free, don’t worry—you’re not alone! Though fleas tend to be more of a problem in warmer months, they can survive throughout the year here in Tennessee and feast on your pets pretty much any time they want. In this article, we’ll give you a few tips and tricks that can help you recognize a flea infestation, fight them off and prevent them from becoming a problem for you and your pets in the future.

Why are fleas a problem?

Fleas can have harmful effects on both animals and people. A severe flea infestation can lead to anemia in cats and dogs, and some animals and people can have an allergic reaction to flea bites. Fleas can also transmit the pathogen responsible for ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ in people.

So why can fleas be so darn hard to get rid of?! First off, fleas lay eggs in a dog or cat’s coat, but these eggs easily fall off the animal’s fur and into the surrounding environment, including your home! Flea eggs and larvae can survive and develop in carpet fibers and in the cracks between hardwood floors. GROSS.

What to Look For

Finding fleas on your pet is a sure-fire way to know your pet has fleas (imagine that!) but sometimes it isn’t so obvious. Since they’re often hard to see and even 1 or 2 fleas can be a problem, there are a few other signs you should be aware of. Fleas are blood-sucking parasites, meaning they consume blood from animals as their source of nutrition. After digesting blood from a dog or cat, the blood is excreted and dries into black fecal pellets known as ‘flea dirt’. This ‘flea dirt’ (photo below) is commonly seen on animals that have fleas.

“Flea dirt”

Some animals may have an allergic reaction (known as flea allergy dermatitis) in response to flea bites. Pets with flea allergy dermatitis experience extremely itchy skin and hair loss along the tail, thighs, stomach, and hind end. Animals with this characteristic pattern of hair loss and itchy skin likely have fleas.

A dog with flea allergy dermatitis

In addition to transmitting the agent that causes ‘Cat Scratch Fever’, fleas can also transmit Dipylidium caninum (tapeworms). If you see small white segments resembling a grain of rice (Dipylidium caninum segments known as proglottids) in your pet’s feces or on its coat, your pet likely has fleas.

What to Do

Because of the negative impact fleas can have on human and animal health, the Companion Animal Parasite Council recommends treating dogs and cats year-round and throughout their lives with flea control products. If an animal has fleas, all animals in the home should be treated with flea control products, and the home should be thoroughly cleaned to eliminate eggs and/or larvae from the environment.

We recommend our canine and feline friends be treated with Bravecto, a flea and tick preventive medication. Bravecto provides protection for 12 weeks (3 MONTHS!), which means it only needs to be given 4 times per year! Bravecto comes in a chewable form for dogs and topical form for cats. We encourage you to discuss a flea control program and specific medications with one of our veterinarians. Fleas can be a nuisance, but we’re here to help you tackle the problem. Should you have any questions about protecting your pet from fleas, don’t hesitate to call or schedule an appointment with us!