By Nan Talleno

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Unfortunately, it’s time to watch for fleas.

Fleas are not only a stressful nuisance, but can cause medical problems for your pet including flea allergy dermatitis, tapeworms, secondary skin irritations, which can be severe and anemia due to blood loss, especially in puppies and kittens, which can sometimes be fatal. And fleas can heighten medical issues for senior and ailing pets.

The easiest way to check if your pet has fleas is by finding the adult fleas and especially the flea feces, which is often called “flea dirt” on the animal. Brush your pet over a white sheet or white paper towel and look for small dark specks. Flea dirt contains digested blood and they will turn a reddish brown color when dampened with a small amount of water.

The best line of defense against fleas is prevention. Talk to your vet to see what safely and effectively will work best for your pet. Monthly topical preventative medication is less expensive and will save time, money and stress for both you and your pet in the long run. But, make sure it is not too harsh and remember not all types work on all animals. Many types for dogs are extremely toxic to cats. Do your research.

Bottom line, it’s better to prevent fleas safely first than to have to stop an infestation later.