The adult flea will spend most
of its life on a host (usually an animal), biting as often as
400 times a day. Fleas can make life miserable for your pet and
they can transmit diseases and cause serious illnesses. Although
rare, fleas can transmit bubonic plague and murine typhus, which
can be deadly to you and your pet. Fleas can also cause anemia,
allergies, and carry tapeworms.
What illnesses do animals get from fleas?
While on your pet, an adult flea will bite often. With each bite
the flea sucks out a small portion of blood. If a small pet is
severely infested with fleas, the pet can lose a considerable
amount of blood. Depending on the infestation and how long the
infestation continues, small pets, puppies, and kittens can
develop anemia. Treatment for anemia often requires
hospitalization with treatments of iron supplements or a blood
transfusion. Some pets do not survive severe cases of anemia.
Saliva from a flea can cause an allergic reaction in your pet.
The allergy becomes apparent when your pet begins to scratch
excessively. To prevent a blood clot while feeding, a flea
injects saliva into its host before sucking out blood. The
saliva creates an allergic reaction—itching. The severity of
itching depends on the severity of the allergy. Just like
people, your pet can have a minor reaction (a little itchy), or
a major reaction, scratching until it bleeds.
If your dog or cat can’t seem to stop scratching it may be
experiencing an allergic reaction to fleas. Your pet can scratch
to the point it has no hair in a particular area and the skin
can become red, swollen, or raw and bleeding. A skin or blood
test can determine if your pet is allergic to fleas. If your pet
is allergic to fleabites, then simply getting rid of the fleas
will cure your pet.
Fleas aid the development of tapeworms by becoming the host of
the developing tapeworm eggs. The amazing life cycle of a
tapeworm begins when a flea larva feeds on the tapeworm eggs.
Instead of the egg being destroyed, it actually develops inside
the flea larva, and continues to grow through the flea’s pupa
stage, and in the adult flea. When the flea matures as an adult,
it bites its host, irritating your dog or cat. If your pet eats
the flea while grooming or through biting at the flea, it is
swallowed. Again, the tapeworm is unharmed and it begins to grow
and reproduce inside the pet’s intestines, starting another
cycle. The mature tapeworm develops eggs that are passed out of
the rectum of the pet, supplying new eggs for the flea larva to
Treatment & Prevention
The complete life cycle of a flea includes the egg, larva, pupa,
and adult stages. The clear-to-white eggs can be seen along with
the adult flea feces when your dog or cat scratches. The eggs
resemble salt and the feces looks like black specks of dirt.
Each stage of the fleas’ life cycle relies upon another state
for survival. For example, the larva feeds upon the feces of the
adult and the pupa does not emerge into an adult until the
environment is adequate for the adult flea to survive. The
fleas’ ability to adapt to the environment makes it very
difficult to get rid of fleas.
If you have an infestation, the yard should be spot treated,
paying special attention to areas of shade or under decks where
animals rest. The interior of the house should be treated with
residual materials such as an adulticide and with an Insect
Growth Regulator. To rid the pet of the adult fleas, wash, comb
and then put on a treatment for the best results.
Some pest control companies offer flea pest kits to help you
treat your home, yard, and pet. Flea kits are convenient and are
often more economical because the products are sold as a package
instead of being individually priced.
You may want to take your pet to a veterinarian instead of
treating your pet yourself; especially if this is the first time
you have treated your pet for fleas. Some over-the-counter pet
products can cause serious illnesses such as seizures or
allergic reactions causing loss of hair, bleeding wounds, and
sometimes death. Go see the vet; your pet will be treated with
loving care and with the healthiest medications on the market
Fleas can transmit serious diseases and an infestation puts you,
your family, and your pet at risk. Get rid of the fleas and
eliminate the danger.
About The Author
Dennise Brogdon is the managing editor of the
Hughston Health Alert, a quarterly,
patient-information newsletter, and she is an
editorial assistant for the National Athletic
Trainers’ Association’s scientific journal, the
Journal of Athletic Training. Dennise is a Web
site copywriter and editor. She has experience
writing and editing SEO copy and META tags,
brochures, advertorials, video scripts, and
other technical and promotional material, as
well. Dennise earned a BA in English with
professional writing as an emphasis at Columbus
State University. She is a member of the
American Medical Writers Association and the
Georgia Writers Association.
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