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Flea Transmitted Diseases

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

Flea anemia
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 puppies, elderly dogs and small dogs.

Symptoms to look for:

  • Weakness
  • Pale gums
  • Lethargy

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

Flea allergy dermatitis (flea allergy)
Flea bites can often go unnoticed on may dogs. 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-thretening, fle allergy dermatitis is extremely irritating to your dog. Note that 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 dog swallows an infected flea, the dog may then become infected with the tapeworm. After being ingested, the tapeworm egg matures into an adult tapeworm that is segmented and can be 6 inches or more in length and hooks onto your dog’s intestinal lining.

Symptoms to look for:

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

Other flea-transmitted diseases

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