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Dog Fleas

Fleas in dogs are a tremendous problem for dogs.  They are
not only a nuisance but can cause disease in dogs and in
their human family members.  Dog skin allergies can be a
result of a dog’s hypersensitivity to the flea saliva resulting
in a flea allergic dermatitis.  Dr. Sam discusses the problems
associated with
dog fleas and how fleas in dogs are treated.

Post a message or ask a question on our new Dog Health Problems Advice Forums

Fleas in Dogs

Often, I am asked by pet owners whether fleas can carry
disease or not.  The answer is yes.

In cats, the flea is responsible for transmitting a devastating
blood parasite that attacks red blood cells causing anemia.  
Furthermore, if a cat harbors the agent that causes "Cat
Scratch Fever" in people, the flea can transmit the disease to
their owners.  And many infestations of
fleas in dogs
involve the cat flea so dog owners are also susceptible.

In both dogs and cats, if a flea infestation is severe, the
fleas alone can directly cause blood loss and anemia.

The flea is also the carrier for the tape worm in both dogs
and cats.  If your pet has tapeworms - those flat rice-like
worms (we vets love food analogies!) that you may see on
bedding and around your pet's tail area - then you can be
sure fleas are lurking.

Finally, some cats and dogs are allergic to flea saliva, and
even one flea bite can set them off scratching furiously.  
Incidentally, some people are also allergic to flea saliva and
have the same reaction.  People and pets who are allergic
know when they are getting bitten by a flea, and the rest of
us don't (scary thought...).  

How do we get rid of fleas?

Flea treatment is two-fold: treating the pet and treating the
environment.   It is best to leave treating the environment
to a trained professional.   Treating the pet involves using
topical flea preventatives such as Frontline and Advantage.  
Revolution, a heartworm preventative, is also very effective
against fleas.  These products have great safety records.  

Please be careful with over the counter flea preventives
that have pyrethrins (look for the suffix "-thrin") that have
been around for a long time, or organophospates or other
ingredients.   The pyrethrins are generally not effective and
have a poorer safety record  The organophosphates are not
safe at all to use.     

- Sam D. Meisler DVM

The statements or information on this website have not
been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to
diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.