To shed some light on the significance of fleas, it might help to define them. Fleas are parasites that live exclusively by consuming blood from a host…for our purposes, that host is your cat or dog!

The CDC has recently issued a warning that vector borne illnesses are dramatically on the rise. Vectors of most concern are ticks, mosquitos, and fleas. Since fleas seem to “fly under the radar” when it comes to disease transmission concerns, we thought it wise to take a look at the health threats they represent.

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Diseases Carried By Fleas:

Plague – yes, as in Bubonic Plague. Though extremely rare, in 2015 the CDC reported a concerning uptick in cases of plague around the Pacific Northwest. To transmit plague, a flea takes a bite out of an infected wild animal, like a chipmunk or vole, and easily passes it along through its bite.

Cat Scratch Disease – CSD is passed to humans through infected flea feces attached to a cat’s paws or fur. Though it rarely has any impact on cats, an infected human will exhibit a fever, extreme fatigue, severe headaches. Anyone with a compromised immune system can become extremely ill from CSD.

Tapeworms – fleas can carry tapeworm eggs within their bodies. When a dog eats one of these fleas, the eggs hatch inside the dog and the tapeworms attach themselves to the intestinal wall. The result is vomiting, weight loss, and bowel irritation all of which require treatment to restore the dog to good health.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis – one bite from a flea is all it takes for extreme itchiness, hot spots, and fur loss to occur. As the host animal licks the infected site, it spreads the bacteria to other areas of the skin causing additional eruptions.

Mycoplasma Haemofelis – transmitted through a flea bite, this is a parasitic bacterial disease in cats that causes fever and anemia often severe enough to warrant a blood transfusion.

It appears safe to say that fleas are far more than an itchy annoyance! While there are a number of factors attributing to the population growth of fleas, increased rainfall and warmer temperatures directly impact their breeding and biting habits. Because they spread their diseases through host animals, it is extremely difficult to totally eradicate them, but, there are products available that can control their infestation, and help stop the spread of the diseases they carry. Though most active during the warmer months, it is strongly advised that prevention be used at least through the first two frost cycles, and preferably year round. Given the opportunity, fleas will seek the warmth and safety of your home to survive the winter months. They’ll continue to breed and mature resulting in an infestation that often requires the services of a licensed exterminator.

Prevention options have greatly expanded in recent years, and include topical treatments applied monthly, collars that offer several months of protection, and a variety of oral options. Your veterinarian is your best resource for determining which option best meets your pet’s needs. With warm weather upon us, don’t delay taking action.

Like ticks and mosquitoes, fleas have the potential to create a serious health problem for both you and your pets. Schedule time with your veterinarian today. Call us today at (732) 671-3110.