Cat Care – Checking for Fleas

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 34,990
    Dr. Candy Olson, owner of Greenbriar Animal Hospital demonstrates how to check your cat for fleas.

    Candy Olson

    Dr. Candy Olson graduated from veterinary school in 1978, and has been working as a small animal veterinarian ever since. She started her own practice, Greenbriar Animal Hospital, in Fairfax, Virginia in 1993 with a goal to providing a very personal level of service, like an old fashioned family doctor’s office. The hospital has grown into a busy 2 doctor practice with a full time dog and cat groomer. The practice and Dr. Olson have received several awards for top quality service to her patients and their owners, but what she enjoys the most is fine tuning the day to day care of her patients, and helping their owners cope with medical and behavioral issues that pop up in today’s lifestyles. Dr. Olson is particularly interested in the care of geriatric pets and in pets with multiple medical and/or behavioral problems. She keeps her veterinary knowledge current by reading more than 8 veterinary journals every month, and by attending more than 80 hours of continuing education meetings each year (Virginia requires 15 hours per year). She also serves as a mentor for student veterinary technicians and high school students interested in veterinary medicine. Her hobbies include gardening, travel, and photography (photography is an extended family hobby). Some of her photos and some of her family’s photos are framed and on display at the animal hospital.

    Hi, I am Dr. Candy Olson from Greenbriar Animal Hospital. Were shooting a set of videos on tips on how to care of your cat at home. This particular section is how to check your cat for fleas. Just a little bit of background information on fleas. Fleas are very tiny, that little dot right there, thats the size of an adult flea, and they move very quickly. They also jump, flea can jump from here all the way over to there. So, if youre looking for fleas on your cat, and youre not seeing any actual fleas, dont be surprised, its actually hard to catch a flea on the cat, because they move so fast. So, what you really ought to be checking for is what they call flea dirt. Now, flea dirt is dried blood. Fleas suck, blood, they process it, they eat it, they pass it out, its actually flea poop, and its little dark speckles that almost looks like dirt. It looks a little bit like this on this white piece of paper. This is Lucky, she is helping us out with this, she doesnt have fleas, so we manufactured some flea dirt so you could see what it would look like. But, it really helps to have a flea comb like this, or some kind of comb where the teeth are real close together, and you can just comb her like this if youre looking for fleas. This is the easiest way to do it, provided the cat doesnt have too long a coat or isnt too tangled, because you dont actually have to look, you can just do the comb like this. Then what you do is you take this, and youre going to put it over this white piece of paper, and you may see some little dark specks like this come off. If youre thinking well, maybe thats just dirt dirt, its not flea dirt, its not dried blood, I will show you in just a minute how to check and show that it definitely is. The other thing that you can do, if you dont have one of these combs, or if the cats got a really thick coat, or say it has got some knots and the comb doesnt want to go through, or the cats not too thrilled about being combed, you can just literally do this. You can just massage the cat and look and see, do you see any of these little specks. It works best if you do this on top of that white sheet of paper, because things will fall off on to it, and so thats an easy way to check for fleas. If you have a youngster, a little kitten, sometimes you can turn them over like this, and they will cooperate where the hair is thinner on the tummy. Look, he is not too thrilled with this. You might actually see a flea running through the hair there, but you can usually only do that with the little kittens. So, if youre looking at this and youre thinking gosh, I wonder if thats really flea dirt. All you need to do is take a little bit of water and spray it on, and let it sit for a few minutes. If its just dirt, its not going to change things. If its flea dirt, it is dry blood, and in a few minutes what you will get is you will get that red color, and you can see, oh yeah, thats blood. So, that serves as a good way to tell. Cats usually only have a lot of dirt on them if they were out digging in the garden or something like that, and so its fairly rare to have a cat with a lot of regular dirt on them. Dogs get dirty and cats are usually pretty clean, but thats a full proof way to tell is it flea dirt or not. The thing with fleas is they mate and breed very, very rapidly. So, if you see one flea, there are thousands that youre not seeing. So, its really important to make sure that your cat is protected from fleas. Cats that go outside at all should be on medication to protect them from fleas, and also cats that are inside, but live with pets that do go outside, so there is some cat or dog thats going in and out who could bring fleas in, its also important for them to be on medication too to protect them from fleas. Fleas are not only kind of nasty little bugs, but they carry disease. Depending upon where you live, here in Northern Virginia, the flea season is about from the 1st of April through until we get a good hard frost, which is sometimes November or December. In some parts of the country its year-round. So, check with your vet where you live, and ask them when is it important to protect your cat for fleas. Your particular instance, does you cat need it, and if so, whats the best thing to use? So, thats a little information on how to check you cat for fleas. Next, were going to go over on how to check your cat for ticks.