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.