Fleas! Itchy, scratchy, creepy, crawly, fleas. We all hate looking down and seeing a flea scurry or jump across our cat or pup. Imagine how our pets feel! This guide to fleas will help us understand, treat, and prevent infestations. Let’s begin by getting to know what dangers fleas really represent. Afterall, most pet guardians think these pests are just an itchy nuisance. But they are so much more dangerous than that. Fleas carry and transmit dangerous diseases, viral pathogens, parasites, and can cause bacterial infections to our pets and to us! The entire family is at risk when fleas are allowed to thrive. Luckily, there is plenty we can do to treat an infestation and prevent future exposures.
Fleas and other pests aren't just irritating and itchy. They are dangerous to my health and my human's health.
AnaemiaFleas are blood suckers. It’s their natural food. And while it’s easy to think of fleas as small pests that can’t really take much blood volume from us, they can cause significant imbalances in the circulatory system, leading to anaemia. In severe cases, iron deficiency anaemia happens when there is a heavy infestation and can be an especially dangerous problem for young animals.
AllergiesFlea saliva is an irritant. It’s not just the scurrying on their skin that makes our poor cats and canines itchy. A single flea bite can cause severe itching and irritation. For 50% of all pets, just one bite can cause flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), also called, parasitic dermatitis. Meaning, most of us are allergic to fleas so the irritation is even worse. Itchiness and rash can occur at the bite site, or all over the body.
BartonellaA bacterial parasite, Bartonella is transmitted by fleas and ticks. All of us are susceptible. Dogs, cats, rodents, and humans are all at risk of infection. This disease multiplies in blood cells and requires blood tests for diagnosis. Most often, it’s treated with antibiotics. In humans, it is a famous cause for cat-scratch fever.
Bubonic PlagueThat’s right. Bubonic plague, or more famously called, the black death, is still alive and well in many pockets around the world, including North America. A handful of cases are diagnosed across Southwestern U.S. Luckily, it’s treated with antibiotics. However, it’s important to know that this deadly disease is carried by rodents and fleas and is transmitted to both, pets and humans.
Murine TyphusIt's a rare disease, but Murine Typhus affects humans and animals. Fleas are usually infected when they bite rodents with this disease. Then humans and pets are then infected when fleas make it into our homes. This can happen when fleas jump from rodents, think rat-infested areas, to humans or pets. Symptoms include chills, fever, headache, and nausea. There are treatments, but only if it is diagnosed and treated early. The best cure is prevention.
Don't let that scary flea get me!
RickettsiaeDiagnosis and treatment of Rickettsiae depends on the strain and the illness detected. This is a bacterial infection causes several serious illnesses including flea-borne spotted fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick bite fever, and typhus. Rickettsiae is actually a bacteria transmitted by fleas and ticks. All of these can be difficult to diagnose and are avoided with the right preventative measures.
TungiasisThis flea-borne disease, Tungiasis, is really an infestation. It isn’t as common as some of the others on this list, but the increasing ease of international travel has been bringing it from the tropics to the United States with more frequency. A burrowing flea, also often referred to as a chigger or sand flea, anchors itself into the first layer of skin, the epidermis. From there, it can cause infections, irritation, and can weaken the immune system, leaving us exposed to other irritants and diseases.
TularemiaNative to North America, Tularemia can be a serious bacterial illness. It’s often transmitted from fleas or ticks on rodents to humans and our furry companions. Antibiotics should be administered as early as possible, so detection and testing is important. Symptoms include chills, diarrhea, fever, joint pain, and progressive weakness.
TapewormsParasites are commonly carried by fleas along with bacteria and viruses. Tapeworms are a type of flatworm that lives in a host’s digestive tract and can cause harm to the digestive system and sometimes other organs as the infestation grows. Cats, dogs, humans, and other animals are susceptible to this parasite. Cats and dogs usually ingest adult fleas that have been infected by tapeworms while they are grooming themselves.
Check me for those bugs and then give me something to keep them from 'bugging' us, please!
Any guide to fleas wouldn't be complete without at least one confident suggestion for a reliable preventative remedy. There are many treatments and preventative measures that can be taken. Most are riddled with chemicals and are often toxic to our pets, but because they are administered in a watered down or small amount, our pets may just feel a bit off for a few days after treatment. The best approach is to take ongoing preventative measures with products that are safe for our pets, for ourselves, and for the entire family. EcoBug is a safe, all-natural solution that not only protects against fleas, but provides significant protection against mosquitos, mites, and ticks. Order a bottle now and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a protected family and home. Then continue to part two of this guide to fleas and our pets.
- "How to Handle Fleas on Dogs," PetMD
- "How to Get Rid of Fleas on Dogs in 4 Steps," AKC American Kennel Club
- "How to Spot the Signs of Fleas," WebMD