Many pet owners are in a war with fleas. Americans spend as much as nine billion dollars a year on flea control. These costs include veterinary visits, exterminator treatments and over the counter solutions. But many want to know why fleas are bad for dogs? Fleas and their bites can cause allergy dermatitis, anemia, tapeworms and other diseases such as plague, typhus and bartonella.
These little parasitic pests feed exclusively by hematophagy, or the consumption of blood. They are a wingless insect from the insect family Siphonaptera. There are many different species of flea, each for a different host. Cat fleas, dog fleas, human fleas, rat fleas and many others may prefer a specific host, but most can still bite outside their preferred host, including biting humans. Many of these species are expert jumpers capable of jumping huge distances for their size.
FLEA ALLERGY DERMATITIS
Flea allergies and skin issues are the most common negative side effect that dogs suffer. When a flea bites a dog, it will inject a small amount of saliva into the wound. The dog’s immune system fights back with an allergic reaction causing itching, rash, bumps and irritation. As the dog itches its skin, the skin can break open, causing infections. These rashes and irritations can often be found at the back and base of the tail, but they can also be found on any area of skin that may have been bitten. In extreme cases, hair loss can occur.
Meeting with your veterinarian can help. Veterinarians have treatments for both flea removal and skin irritations. Of course, removing the fleas from your home at the same time is of grave importance. The best way to do this is to contact an experienced exterminator. Exterminator’s have an interior and exterior treatment that can stop fleas cold.
In an effort to itch their skin, dogs will sometimes consume fleas. The flea carries tapeworm larvae that travel to the dog’s intestines. Here, they will use hook like suckers to attach to the wall of the intestines and feed off the food your dog eats. Once they have established themselves, they will start growing. The adult tapeworm can grow to between four and eight inches.
The tapeworm is made up of small segments about the size of a grain of rice. These segments can break off. When this happens, it is not uncommon to see the segments moving on the dog’s rear end, or in its feces. They dry out and become hard and yellow. If you are seeing these signs, your veterinarian is here to help. He will have medication for removing the tapeworm and the fleas. Remember, it is important to get rid of both.
As stated before, fleas feed on the blood of their host. In extreme situations, populations can be so large, and so many bites that the dog will suffer from a loss of red blood cells. This more often occurs in small puppies because of their size, but larger dogs, often sickly, can be effected as well. Anemia, or low blood count, can be very dangerous, and even result in death.
The number one symptom of anemia in dogs is the color of their gums. If they appear whitish or pale, seek veterinary care immediately. Other symptoms, such as paleness in the eyes and ears, discolored skin or mucous membranes, low energy, black stool. eating dirt and vomiting can be signs that something is wrong. Again, your vet can give you a correct diagnosis and treatment if anemia is playing a role in your dogs health.
Dogs are not only bitten by dog fleas. Other species of flea, most often the rat flea, can bite your dog and transmit diseases such as typhus, plague, and bartonellosis. These diseases are very serious and can even result in death. These diseases are also easily transmitted to humans and can pose a serious health threat.
Bartonellosis, or cat scratch fever can be very dangerous to your dog. Its caused by a parasite carried by fleas. Symptoms such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and swelling of the lymph nodes can be indicative of this disease. This disease can be life threatening to your pet, so consulting your vet is the safest bet if you suspect a problem.