In the previous post, we talked about ticks & some of the diseases they carry. Here, we'll discuss fleas in more detail, and some illnesses that they might transmit.
Fleas & ticks are parasites – organisms that feed off of other living things. As they feed by ingesting blood from your pet, they can potentially transmit diseases to your pet. These are called vector borne diseases. Some of these diseases can also be transmitted to people by the flea or tick. Although there are more than we can review here, we'll go over some of the more common concerns we have with fleas in this section.
Tapeworms - Probably the most common result of fleas is that your pet gets tapeworms. Because the flea causes your pet to itch, when your pet chews he/she may actually ingest the flea. This oftentimes leads to your pet getting these parasites. You may see your pet chewing at his hind area more often, scooting, or you may even see segments of the parasite in your pet’s hair or stool. It’s often described as looking like rice grains – white to tan colored 1/4″ flat segments that may or not move. If you see these segments in your pet’s stool let us know. We can take a quick look at the stool if you bring the sample with the parasite in & determine if indeed it is a tapeworm. Treatment is a dose of a dewormer specific for tapeworms, and adequate flea control to help prevent further infections.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis -The second most common condition seen as a result of fleas is a skin condition called flea allergy dermatitis that develops when a pet is allergic to the flea. Because it is an allergy, it doesn’t take pets that are allergic to fleas many fleas at all to cause a severe reaction. The skin gets red and inflamed which causes itching, so the pet chews & scratches, causing infection and more inflammation … etc. An antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and depending on the severity even topical treatments and tools to prevent the pet from further damaging the skin may be required. Many owners are often surprised to hear that their pet has a flea allergy because they haven’t seen fleas. But again, it doesn’t take these pets having very many fleas at all (sometimes it’s even hard to find any because the pet has already ingested the flea, or there are just that few on the pet that with them crawling around they’re hard to find) for their skin to get inflamed and the cycle begins. Even if you cannot see fleas on your pet (a flea comb works great for checking your pet), you may see “flea dirt” – small dark sand-like particles close to the skin oftentimes around the tail area. So strict year round flea control is essential for these pets to prevent recurrent problems.
Bartonellosis - This disease is caused by a bacteria that the flea can carry and can result in Cat Scratch Disease in people. Though both cats and dogs can get the disease, it is more common in cats. Because it attacks the red blood cells, it can cause anemia.
Anemia - We have seen puppies and kittens with anemia just from the sheer number of fleas they’ve had on them. With each of these parasites ingesting blood from the small kitten or puppy, anemia isn’t uncommon when the fleas are left untreated.
There are a lot of choices when it comes to protecting your pet from fleas, so many that the decision can be a confusing one at times! Things to consider, however, are whether the product is safe (espcially if you have cats), whehter the product is effective, how the product is to be applied, whether the product will protect against more than just fleas and/or ticks, and price. Currently, for dogs we carry Nexgard, a chewable product that kills fleas & ticks for one month. Sentinel is also a wonderful oral heartworm preventative that will prevent fleas from hatching. So for heartworm protection this is awesome and it gives some protection from fleas, but you will still need something to kill adult fleas and ticks. For cats, Revolution is a great product as it not only kills fleas but also prevents heartworms.
Whatever you purchase, make sure to read all of the instructions and to monitor your product’s effectiveness. The last thing you want is to think that a product is working and then later come to find out it wasn’t doing such a great job & you now have a flea infestation. And don’t forget that because fleas leave eggs in the environment, when they hatch they will jump on any pet, cat or dog, so it’s important to treat all of your pets – even the cats that stay indoors and the dogs that only go out to potty. Please call with any questions!