Flea Transmitted Diseases

Flea control is very important. It would be a mistake to think of fleas as simply an annoyance for your cat. Fleas can transmit several diseases and heavy flea infestations can be especially dangerous.

Cat Flea anemia
Cat Fleas are blood-sucking insects. A heavy flea infestation can cause a slow, life-threatening blood loss that could lead to anemia — the physical state of having a low number of blood cells. Anemia can prove fatal, especially for kittens and elderly cats.
Symptoms to look for:

  • Weakness
  • Pale gums
  • Lethargy

If you suspect your cat has anemia, see your veterinarian immediately.

Flea allergy dermatitis (flea allergy)
Flea bites can often go unnoticed on many cats. On others, they can cause severe itching, leading to skin damage from scratching and hair loss – caused by a reaction to one (or more) of the 15 different substances in flea saliva. While not life-threatening, flea allergy dermatitis is extremely irritating to your cat. Just one flea bite can trigger an allergic response, and often allergic animals do not have visible fleas on them.

Symptoms to look for:

  • Scratching, chewing, and/or licking
  • Red, irritated skin
  • Hair loss

Your veterinarian can diagnose flea allergies with an intradermal skin test and put an end to the problem.

Tapeworm infection

Fleas are part of the lifecycle of one tapeworm species (an intestinal parasite). If a cat swallows an infected flea, the cat may then become infected with the tapeworm. After being ingested, the tapeworm egg matures into an adult, segmented tapeworm that can become 6 inches or longer, hooking onto your cat’s intestinal lining.

Symptoms to look for:

  • Check your cat’s stool: tapeworm segments contain eggs, which look like pieces of rice that are passed through the cat’s intestinal tract and expelled.

Other flea-transmitted diseases

  • Plague caused by Yersinia pestis
  • Typhus caused by Rickettsia typhi
  • Tularemia caused by Francisella tularensis