Can flea bites make my pet sick?

Fleas are tiny, weird-looking, irritating little bugs, but they’re far more than simply annoying. First of all, they’re parasites. When a flea bites your cat or dog, they usually settle in and suck up their blood until they’ve had their fill. Flea bites not only generate allergens that produce skin irritations, they sometimes cause diseases. When fleas enter your residence, your home becomes their home; and they cause some of the same problems for you.

Flea Bites and the Problems They Cause

Fleas usually find a home in your pets’ fur while they’re playing outdoors. When your pets come back inside, the fleas come right along with them. They take up residence on your pets, in their bedding, in your carpets, and on your furniture; and they begin a gradual spread. You might not even realize what’s happening until the infestation is out of control and causing problems.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Flea bites are a skin irritant for cats, dogs, and humans. While they don’t generate life-threatening illnesses, the problems they do create often cause concern. Flea bites often trigger a reaction in pets that are susceptible to allergies. This occurs because fleas release saliva while consuming a pet’s blood.

When your pet is allergic to flea saliva, flea bites can cause dermatitis, an annoying itchy skin inflammation. If your pet is suffering from dermatitis, you might notice excessive itching and hair loss. Your veterinarian can diagnose the allergy during an examination or by performing a blood test.

Loss of Hair

As your pet’s flea allergy irritation becomes unbearable, he will likely respond by scratching and biting himself. These actions usually cause continued irritation and hair loss.

Bartonella Henselae Infection

Flea bites sometimes cause Bartonella henselae bacteria infections. This condition is better known as cat-scratch disease. It’s zoonotic, which means it’s capable of passing from animals to humans. Dogs and cats catch bartonellosis from tick, fly, or flea bites. Either animal can pass it on to a human, usually with a scratch or a bite.

If your pet has a Bartonella infection, he might experience joint pain, fever, and other symptoms. Some kittens carry the disease but display no symptoms at all. Both symptomatic and non-symptomatic animals can pass the disease to humans.

This is worth noting as the CDC estimates that up to one-third of all cats have Bartonella bacteria in their blood. When an animal infects a human, symptoms often include fever and swollen lymph nodes, usually within one to two weeks of a scratching incident. The disease affects young children most frequently.

Tapeworms

When your cat or dog eats a flea that’s carrying a tapeworm egg, it eventually hatches and attaches to your pet’s intestine. Tapeworms rarely cause major complications while inside your pet. You might notice small tapeworm segments in your pet’s feces. These proglottids are the primary way of diagnosing a tapeworm. They contain eggs that can hatch and generate a tapeworm infestation.

Preventing and Eliminating Flea Infestations

Prevention is the best way to handle flea problems. It’s important to keep your pet’s living area clean. You’ll also find a variety of products to prevent and eliminate fleas in your home.

Your vet can recommend powders, dips, flea collars, and other personal care products to treat and protect your pet. She can also provide treatment for flea-related diseases and irritations.

Contact Hebron Veterinary Hospital

To learn more about flea bites and the problems they cause, give us a call at (860) 228-4324. We’ll provide the information, preventative care, and treatment your pets need.