It is difficult to see black specks in dark-colored pets, but they can make dogs and cats with white coats look as though someone sprinkled them with black pepper. Don't yell at your toddler just yet: There is a good chance that something else is responsible for giving them that speckled look.
Black specks in the fur are often a sign of fleas, says Richard K. Anderson, D.V.M., a veterinary dermatologist at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston. Even when you can't see the fleas themselves, the black specks, which are their wastes, are a sure giveaway, he explains. If you look closely, you may also see eggs, which appear as very small whitish specks.
"When the black specks are on the chin and above the lip, especially on a cat, the problem is most likely some form of acne," says Dr. Anderson. Like people, cats have a large number of oil-producing sebaceous glands on their chins. The oils oxidize and turn black when they leave the glands, forming blackheads. Unlike flea dirt, the black material produced by sebaceous glands will feel slightly waxy. And, of course, it won't easily rub off on your finger when you touch it.
See Your Vet If...
- Your pet is scratching a lot
- The specks are only on her face
- Your pet is shedding or scratching more than usual
- He has scales, bald patches, or a rash
- He has severe dandruff or dry skin
- His fur is greasy or smelly even after baths
- Your pet has broken out in hives and is having trouble breathing
- He has a bad sunburn
- There has been a significant change in skin color, or the skin seems loose
- There is a lump or swelling beneath his skin
- Your pet has a sore on the skin that won't heal
- The skin of the lips, abdomen, or rectal area is yellow
- There are red or purple dots or splotches on his skin
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