Most pet owners have, at one time or another, dealt with the headache of fleas. These pesky little creatures can pose quite a danger, so prevention and treatment are extremely important to ensure the health of your kitten.
How to Identify if Your Kitten Has Fleas
Fleas are tiny, dark-colored parasites that feast on animal blood. It is important to identify fleas right away to stop an infestation in your home and to keep your pets safe.
If your kitten begins to scratch or bite itself, you will need to check it for fleas. To do this, move the fur on the nape of the neck until you can see your kitten's skin underneath. Check in different spots all around this area and down its shoulders. If you see any small insects crawling through the fur, they are most likely fleas. If you see small red bumps, these may be flea bites. Also, if you see anything that looks like a small dirty smudge or small black clump, this could be flea feces referred to as "flea dirt," you should seek flea treatment for your kitten.
Flea Treatment and Prevention
Flea prevention is essential for kittens that spend any time outdoors. According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, even if your kitten lives strictly indoors, you should still use flea prevention to ensure total flea control to avoid infestations that may come into your home through outside influences.
Liquid Flea Treatment
The most common type of flea prevention is topical liquid flea treatment such as Frontline, which is made up of chemicals that kill fleas. These treatments can be purchased through your veterinarian's office or pet store. The liquid will last for 30 days and will kill all fleas, flea eggs and larvae living on your kitten.
According to the ASPCA, kittens between five and eight weeks of age weighing over two pounds can use Capstar, which can be acquired from your veterinarian. Capstar is a one time oral flea treatment.
For treating fleas in kittens four weeks and younger, give them a warm bath with Dawn dish soap, and then use a flea comb to check its entire body for fleas and pull them out. You can also draw fleas out of the fur by placing a shallow dish with soapy water next to the kitten in bright light. The light will attract fleas and they may hop into the water.
How to Apply Flea Treatments
For kittens over eight weeks old, you can apply a topical flea medication by moving the fur over on the back of the neck and applying the liquid directly to the skin. It is important to apply in this area so that the kitten cannot reach it while cleaning itself. Avoid contact with the liquid and wash your hands immediately after using.
If your kitten still has fleas after a treatment or has a reaction to a treatment, do not apply another treatment. Bring your kitten to the veterinarian immediately.
Flea Treatment Warnings
While it's important to treat for fleas, there are some dangers that you should be aware of.
- Never use adult cat or dog flea prevention on your kitten, as it will likely cause serious health effects such as seizures, vomiting or death.
- If your kitten is under eight weeks old, or under the weight recommendation for your selected kitten flea prevention, you should avoid topical flea treatment altogether.
- Do not use flea treatments more often than recommended and only use treatments that are appropriate for your pet's weight.
- Flea collars pose a danger to animals and humans, especially children and pregnant women who come in contact with one. According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), over-the-counter flea and tick prevention for pets can cause "serious health consequences to pets and humans." Reported animal side effects of flea collars are chemical burns, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and even death.
The Importance of Treating Fleas
Flea bites aren't merely a nuisance; they can lead to a number of diseases, including anemia, tapeworm and flea allergy dermatitis. These diseases can lead to lethargy, skin problems, and digestive issues. Fleas can even spread to humans, especially children. Be sure to vacuum and wash all affected areas with soapy water to stop fleas from spreading.
When to See a Veterinarian
Be sure to keep a watchful eye over your kitten after a flea treatment to make sure that they seem healthy and happy. If your kitten has swelling or a rash, this could mean that it is having an allergic reaction to flea bites, or that it has another skin issue altogether. If your kitten is having these symptoms or is having any adverse reactions to flea medications, seek treatment from your veterinarian immediately.