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Main Content

The Harm Fleas Cause

Besides being annoying and potentially embarrassing (no one wants dinner guests scratching their ankles), fleas can cause all kinds of problems — big and small. At a minimum, their bite hurts. As they bite, their saliva acts as an allergen that can cause irritation and itching — even triggering allergic reactions in pets and people. Worse yet, when there are fleas on a dog or cat, they can also spread diseases such as:

Tapeworms

If a flea is infected with tapeworm larvae and is then eaten by the animal it calls home, the animal can easily contract tapeworms. Some pets eat 50-90 percent of the fleas on their bodies, making tapeworms a widespread problem that can cause anemia in pets.

Tularemia

This disease is caused by bacteria and spread by fleas and ticks. Symptoms include an open ulcer near the flea bite, swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue.

Murine typhus

More commonly found in Texas, California and Hawaii, this bacterium is spread by cat fleas that may have fed on rats or opossum. It is passed to people through “flea dirt” or feces by scratching a flea bite or rubbing the person’s eye, nose or mouth.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Spread by both fleas and ticks, this disease is potentially fatal and infects both dogs and humans. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, nausea, vomiting and a rash around wrists and ankles.

Q Fever

This is carried primarily by rat fleas and usually infects humans. It can also infect wild rodents, rabbits and some domestic animals.