Symptoms and Treatments of Fleas in Cats in St. Paul, MN
We tend to focus a lot on preventing external parasites like fleas and ticks in our canine companions, but our cats are also susceptible to these pests! Let’s talk about fleas on our cats!
Many people allow their cats to explore outdoors as part of their enrichment; if our kitties aren’t protected, they can pick up fleas as they go about their adventures. Since cats are avid hunters, they can be exposed to fleas by the prey they encounter.
How Can You Know If Your Cat Has Fleas?
Cats as I am sure you know are fastidious groomers. This means that unless the infestation is severe it may be very difficult to find even one flea on them. Studies have proven that cats can remove roughly 1/5 of the number of adult fleas on their body/day. So how can you tell your cat has fleas if you don’t find any on them? Here are a few telltale signs to look out for:
Fleas tend to like to live on the back 1/3 of your cat’s body, specifically near the tail and back.
Picture the area of fur that would be covered if your cat wore shorts. If your cat is experiencing hair loss, is grooming more, has crusty skin or redness or seems itchy in this area, it could be fleas!
You may notice red spots on your cat’s skin in the area mentioned previously.
This might be flea allergy dermatitis. Some cats are allergic to the bite of fleas. In a cat with flea allergy, even a single flea can cause a severe reaction. If you notice red spots, bumps or crusts accompanied by itchiness on your cat’s back, near their tail – this could be flea allergy dermatitis, even if you never see any fleas.
Fleas defecate a black crusty substance called flea dirt (because it looks like crumbs of dirt).
It is made up of the byproducts of the blood they ingest. If you take a damp paper towel and wipe your cat’s fur against the direction of hair growth and you find black specks or red streaks on the paper towel, this could be a sign of flea dirt and therefore fleas.
If you notice rice grain-like particles in your cat’s feces and notice that your cat has runny stool/diarrhea, it may be possible your cat has tapeworms.
Fleas are carriers for the tapeworm eggs and when your cat swallows the flea while it is grooming, the eggs in the flea hatch and infest their intestinal tract.
So How Can You Protect Your Cat From Fleas?
Thankfully there are many products available to help protect our cats from fleas called flea preventatives. Flea preventatives kill the current fleas on your cat as well as prevent future fleas for a set time also killing the eggs and larvae that the fleas may have laid. The variety in products includes topical (applied to the skin), oral tablets/chews and collars. They are typically given monthly, and we recommend year-round prevention so that your cat is always protected! Here are some options:
- Bravecto (topical)
- Comfortis (oral)
- Seresto collars (flea preventative collar that lasts for 8 months)
- Frontline (topical)
- Revolution (topical)
- Advantix II (topical)
- Capstar* – this is not a flea preventative but acts immediately to kill any fleas currently on your cat
There are over the counter flea and tick options as well, but we ask that you avoid these or at least ask a veterinary professional before applying them as many of them can contain ingredients that are toxic to cats and can cause serious side effects.
If your cat does have fleas, treatment of the environment they live in is also necessary as fleas can jump off their bodies and nest in their bedding and infest your carpet and other items in your home. While fleas do not prefer human hosts, they can still bite us!
If you think your cat may have fleas or you would like to start protecting your cat from fleas, please do not hesitate to reach out to our animal hospital in St. Paul, MN. We would love to advise you on the best next steps and create a treatment plan that works best for your kitty!