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  • Writer's pictureThe Vet Experts

How Dangerous are Fleas for Our Pets?

This sweet kitty came to us a week ago, near death, due to the amount of fleas he had on him. The fleas had sucked out so much of his blood that he required a blood transfusion to save his life.

The dangers of fleas can definitely be far more than just an annoyance for both you and your pet, and can be potentially life threatening if not treated properly and in a timely manner by your veterinarian.

If you've got a cat or a dog, then you are probably aware of the issue of fleas. And you're likely familiar with the commercials and advertisements that invite you to buy products to get rid of fleas or even to prevent them. We put a lot of importance on preventing fleas because they are far more than just being pests. When preventing fleas from our pets we are preventing the likelihood for spreading disease and transmitting disorders in our pets. Some of which include:

Flea allergy dermatitis is a frequent condition associated with flea bites. Some pets can develop an allergy to the saliva of the flea, therefore each bite out a flea takes can cause skin irritation. This means is that one flea bite can lead to significant irritation, itchiness, and annoyance. Flea allergy dermatitis is an ailment that makes pets so itchy that when scratched can result in baldness. The hair at the bottom of the tail is often affected and you might see redness and scabs present all over the animal's body. Avoid flea bites through prevention medications or be sure to seek proper treatment to remove the fleas.

Tapeworms are parasites frequently related to fleas. Tapeworm infestations are caused by fleas when a cat grooms itself and ingests a flea but is not transmitted through bites. After intake, the tapeworm larva continues to grow in the cat's gastrointestinal tract. Once developed, the head of the tapeworm attaches to the intestinal wall, then small segments break off and are passed out the anus. Flea larva feeds these sections and the cycle continues. Removal of tapeworm is highly recommended, though tapeworms typically do not result in illness in the pet.

Flea bite anemia occurs in severe flea infestations in pets. When a flea bites, it feeds on blood. With many fleas feeding at precisely the time, blood loss can occur, resulting in severe anemia. Hospitalization, iron supplementation, and blood transfusions by your emergency vet will be crucial to your pet's survival.

Hemobartonella is a blood parasite transmitted by fleas. This parasite attaches to red blood cells, resulting in destruction of oxygen carrying cells. Hemobartonella can result in severe anemia if left untreated. Specific antibiotics, emergency veterinary hospitalization, as well as blood transfusions, would be needed to give your pet a chance at survival. About a third of those pets afflicted with hemobartonella do not survive.

The plague is not a thing of the past. Still occurring in the American southwest, Yersinia Pestis, the bacterial cause of the plague, is transmitted through fleas. Humans and pets alike are vulnerable to this bacteria. Affected animals may show signs of abscesses, breathing difficulties, fever, or weakness. Treatment includes intravenous fluids, hospitalization, and antibiotics. Removal of these fleas are absolutely crucial.

Not only is the flea a nuisance, it may also be life-threatening. If you notice fleas on your pets, please reach out to us right away. We can advise you on the next best steps in addressing your pet's flea problem, and can set you up with proper flea prevention medications.

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