5 Ways to Tell If Your Pet Has Hidden Fleas
How to Tell if Your Pet Has Fleas
It’s almost Summer. Spring, Summer and Fall mean insects. If you have a furry pet, then you know fleas can be a big problem. You know what they look like, don’t you? 3-4 mm long, narrow, jumping, running, brown-black bugs on your pets and maybe on you, too. You know they spread disease, like the Plague. I mean, literally, Yersinia pestis, the agent that caused the Plague and killed 1 out of every 3 people on earth in the Middle Ages. (Yes, it still exists, especially in the American South West.)
You probably also know to look for flea excrement, also called “flea dirt.” Fleas eat blood, and their excrement is digested blood. It looks like clusters of black dirt by your pet’s skin, usually under the fur. It accumulates mostly by the base of the tail or behind the ears. If you comb out some flea dirt and you put it on white paper, it will run brown-red when water is added. You can even write your name with it!
We’re here to talk about hidden fleas – fleas you have not seen.
My 5 Tips for Knowing There Are Hidden Fleas
Skin problems are most of my days’ work as a veterinarian. And half of the problems are caused by fleas. You can bet if they were easy to prove, people would have taken care of the problem without having to consult a veterinarian!
Here’s how I know a pet has fleas, even if I don’t see them:
5 Was to Tell If There are Hidden Fleas
- Sores and fur missing at the base of the tail
- Pet chewing frantically with nose smushed as if eating an ear of corn on the cob
- +History of a pet owner anywhere south of Anchorage, Alaska who is not using a flea product purchased from a veterinarian (like supermarket or pet store brands)
- Pet has tapeworms and does not hunt
- I pat the back and rub and then lift the tail quick and see the fleas under the tail.
5 Common Misconceptions that lead people to think fleas are not the problem
I hear these reasons why someone wants me to look further for another problem on a daily basis:
- “I never see a flea.” Your pet licks them off before you see them.
- “I have hardwood/ tile floors.” No carpet means easier to treat, not impossible to get fleas.
- “My pet never goes outside.” But I’ll bet you have screens, a screened porch, another pet who goes out, a crawl space under the house, relatives or friends who bring pets over, etc…
- “My other pet is allergic, and he/she is not itchy.” Patterns change throughout life.
- “I used to get fleas on me, but now there are none.” Wow! You have to have a ton of fleas for them to get on the humans! Now I really think you have a flea problem.
Doc Truli’s 5 Tips for Treating Fleas
There are websites and books and veterinarians and exterminators dedicated to helping you figure out how to eradicate fleas. I do have some tips to share based on common misunderstandings many people have about how to get rid of fleas.
- Fleas are survivors. They will hide under clutter. You must clean everything and declutter or you will never be rid of fleas.
- You must break the flea life cycle. This means targeting their egg and larval stages of development, which is 95% of the fleas. They look like dust and the larva move away from light. So you must treat deep into carpets, cracks, and under things. (Flea baths will never address the flea eggs and larva in the environment and you will fail.)
- If even one host pet stays untreated, the fleas will be able to continue to eat and lay eggs. You will have continual infestation.
- If you have carpet in only one room in the house, and you think that it’s okay to leave that room untouched because you keep the pets out of there.” You are dreaming! Fleas get out and pets get in. It’s just a fact. You have to treat the whole house.
- If your untreated pet visits a friend’s house where there are pets, or you move into a place that used to have pets, or you visit a dog park that is poorly managed, your pet will need a preventative against fleas.
Doc Truli’s favorite terrible flea comment while someone declines flea medicine for their pet, “I only see one once in a while and I don’t want to put chemicals on my pet.”
This strategy works for organic gardening, but not for fleas. If you see one, there are thousands, if not millions in your immediate environment. Good Luck! Call your local trusted veterinarian for help and advice about which products work best in your locale.