• Ask the Vet: Itchy, but No Fleas

    Posted on March 30, 2014 by Dr. Natasha Kassell in Ask the Vet, fleas, symptoms.

    My two cats are itchy and scabby, especially around the tail, but I can’t find any fleas.  What could be causing their itchiness?

    While itchiness can be caused by anything from seasonal allergies to food allergies, chances are your cats do have fleas.  Fleas can bite and cause itchiness all over the body, but for some mysterious reason they often congregate and cause the most itching in the tail base region.  This is true for both dogs and cats.

    But how to tell for sure if you’re not actually seeing any fleas?  Start by going to any pet store and purchasing a  little metal comb with teeth that are so close together they’re almost touching, appropriately called a “flea comb.”  When you get home, dampen a piece of white paper towel or toilet paper with a little water.

    Now comes the fun part.  Comb your pet all over.  If the comb picks up anything that resembles dirt, put it on the paper and smudge it with your finger.  Regular dirt remains brown.  Flea “dirt” is actually flea excrement, which contains digested blood.  When moistened, it will smudge a lovely shade of red.  If you find flea dirt, even a little, you can be sure that your pet has at least a few fleas.  In terms of dealing with the unwanted visitors, I’d suggest that you refer to my article, “Treating and Preventing Fleas.”

    Got a question? Email Dr. Kassell!