I’m pretty religious about knocking out fleas when I notice them on my pets, because I know fleas can be a pretty big problem. If you’re a pet owner, you probably think of fleas the way most owners do: as a minor nuisance that can make your pets itchy and, in bad cases, can infest your home. Did you know that fleas on your pet are actually a much more serious problem than most people assume? Fleas can cause several diseases in pets as well as humans. Here are some of the common diseases caused by fleas:
1. Allergic reactions
Both pets and humans can suffer from allergic reactions to flea bites. I have a flea allergy myself, so a flea bite will cause me to get hives and rashes if one of the little pests hops from a pet to me. Dogs and cats can also suffer pretty bad allergic reactions to fleas. I had one cat who suffered from severe milliary dermatitis (feline eczema) every time I missed a single flea treatment.
My dog’s vet told me a “horror story” a few weeks ago about a puppy mill in our area where many dogs had died from anemia because they had such severe flea infestations. After all, fleas feed red blood cells, and when you lose enough of those, you lose the ability to efficiently carry oxygen to the brain. Even pets who are treated for anemia will sometimes have lasting brain damage because of it.
3. Tape Worms
You know how your dog and cat nibble at their skin when they’ve got flea bites? Well, when they do that, they tend to also eat their fleas… And those fleas often have tiny tapeworms inside them, which then reproduce in your pet’s digestive system. The tiny tapeworm inside one flea can turn into a disgusting parasite several feet in length– yuck! The CDC recommends keeping fleas under control to avoid tape worm infections.
You want to avoid the plague… well, like the plague. Many people believe that plague is a thing of the past. While it’s true that we not longer see epidemics of plague as we did in times gone by, it’s still a problem. Plague is transmitted to humans through flea bites, and most cases these days happen to pet owners with flea infestations. Treating your pets and home for fleas will prevent this awful infection from striking you.
5. Murine typhus
Most common in the Southern states, murine typhus is carried by fleas, from both wild animals and pets such as cats or dogs. The most commons symptoms of murine typhus include backache, abdominal pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, and a red rash. The worst symptom of this condition is the extremely high fever that it causes (of 105-106 degrees), which can last for weeks.
Fleas do more than just cause your pet discomfort (although your pet’s comfort should be reason alone to make sure you get your pet treated for fleas). You don’t want yourself, your pet, or any of your family members catching a potentially fatal disease from these irritating little pests.