A dog is a man’s best friend; with this, we can also say that our dog’s enemies are also our worst enemies. Fleas are some of the most common problems that dogs have. Although over 1900 species of fleas exist, we find ourselves concerned with just one: the Ctenocephalides felis flea. Although the Ctenocephalides felis is basically a “cat flea” it not only infests cats, but dogs, rabbits, and other animals as well. And if we think that their danger is only limited to some petty itching on our pets, then think again. Heavy flea infestation can impose serious threats on animals and humans alike. Here are some of the health risks of fleas that everyone should be informed of.
The Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD) is the most common condition that veterinarians encounter with cats and dogs. When fleas puncture the animal’s skin to feed, the saliva causes the animal’s body to release antigen-antibodies. The reaction manifests as inflammation, itching, and even non-ending itch cycles. This causes our pets to be restless, irritable, and suffer from pus-filled bumps and hair loss. However, we should never count on seeing our pets scratch to determine if they have fleas. Some dogs and cats don’t form allergic reaction to flea bites; thus, they could have hundreds of fleas living on their skin without even noticing it.
Second, animals and humans can acquire tapeworms from fleas. Eggs of tapeworms serve as food to flea larvae. When fleas swallow these eggs, the tapeworms begin to thrive in their guts. Your pets can swallow these tapeworm-infected fleas and have the worms reside in their own body. What’s worse is that people are susceptible to unknowingly swallowing these fleas and become infected with tapeworms as well.
Third, heavy flea infestation causes anemia in cats. Due to the parasite’s feeding on blood, the animal suffers from severe blood loss or inadequate red blood cell production. Kittens and adult cats are both prone to acquiring anemia from fleas; and unfortunately, this can be a life threatening condition.
Serious diseases can also be transmitted by fleas to humans. As fleas feed on rats, they transport plague bacteria from the rats to people, which eventually turns out to be what we know as Bubonic plague. Bubonic plague is characterized by swollen lymph nodes or buboes, headache, exhaustion, and fever. Also, fleas can cause murine typhus. The disease comes from flea feces, which makes the typhus-carrying bacteria enter the human body through cuts or breakage in the skin. Symptoms include fever, nausea, and headache.
Fleas should never be underestimated. Small as they are, they pose health hazards that are not only physically unattractive, but can be life threatening as well to humans and animals. As with everything, prevention is better than cure. Many people would like to think that their pets do not have fleas, but they can never know for sure. What’s sure though is that if we take preventive measures from time to time, we and our pets can avoid these health risks and enjoy flea-free lives.