Friday, February 17, 2012

Dangers of Flea Infestations to Pets

Fleas mean so much more than some itching and scratching. They are a serious threat to the health and well-being of you, your pet, and your family. In large numbers, fleas can cause allergic reactions, anemia, and even death. It is important that the conscientious pet owner be aware of the risks during flea season (typically spring and summer) and take all necessary precautions to control the possibility of having a beloved pet infested with fleas.

There are many serious conditions that can be caused by flea infestation. Some of these are easily treated and fall into the category or irritations. Others can lead to serious complications down the road.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Some animals, especially cats, are allergic to the saliva of fleas. In this case, your pet may be even more sensitive to fleabites. These poor animals will suffer from acute itching and irritation all over the body. In the case of a large number of fleas, your pet may be so uncomfortable as to become a danger to you and your family, as the stress of flea allergy dermatitis (otherwise known as fleabite hypersensitivity) could make them aggressive. Signs of this condition include: inflamed skin, scabs, hot spots (in both cats and dogs), constant scratching, and unsightly hair loss.

Fleabite Anemia

Flea feed on blood. And many fleas will suck a lot of blood out of your animal companion. If too much blood is lost, your pet may develop anemia. Pets who are very old, very young, or who have chronic health problems are at greater risk of developing this serious condition. Symptoms include; weakness, lethargy, constantly yawning, excessive sleeping, and pale gums. Any animal suffering from these symptoms should be taken to a qualified veterinarian immediately, as fleabite anemia can result in death. Your vet will likely recommend a blood transfusion and iron supplements.


In many ways, hemobartonella (otherwise known as feline infectious anemia or feline hemotropic mycoplasmosis) mimics fleabite anemia. However, hemobartonella is actually caused by a parasite that is transmitted by fleas. The only way to overcome this dangerous and often fatal disease is to seek medical assistance as quick as possible.


Many fleas actually contain the tapeworm larva. A pet, when cleaning himself or simply trying to scratch that persistent itch, may inadvertently swallow one or more of these fleas. The larva is still alive, and begins to grow in the pet’s intestinal tract. Symptoms include diarrhea and small worms found in the stool. The best and more efficient way to treat tapeworms is through medication prescribed by your veterinarian.

Yersina Pestis

This bacterium prefers to live on fleas that attack rodents such as rats and mice. However, fleas are often not that picky. The ‘ratflea’ as it has become known, can sometimes infest dogs, cats, and even people. Yersina Pestis causes a kind of plague that is fatal to approximately half of all cats that contract it. Symptoms include: high fever, lethargy, and unconsciousness. It can be treated with antibiotics, but only if caught in time. It is also possible that this bacterium can be transmitted to both dogs and humans.

Fleas reproduce at an astounding rate and they lay eggs almost constantly. If you detect a flea problem, treat it immediately, ensuring your pets, home, pet beds, and gardens or other exterior areas are all flea-free. There are many ways to eliminate fleas. Your local home improvement store or pet supply store will probably have products to rid your home of fleas. Read the instruction and warning labels thoroughly before using, and ensure you treat your whole home, not simply the infested pet.


  1. Fleas are one of the strongest insects in the world, being able to carry at least a million times over their body weight. These are all because of their powerful hind legs, which also allow them to travel conveniently anywhere. This gives them distinct advantage when it comes to infesting a place. Anyway, when my husband and I noticed that we have fleas, we quickly made the decision to call for professional help. You just can’t risk this problem growing out of proportion.

    Lucile Lynch