You likely hate to see your beloved dog scratching away at the irritating bites from fleas. However, you should know that those tiny, harmless-looking pests can cause a lot more trouble than mere discomfort. Fleas have historically served as a carrier for various diseases and led to numerous health complications.
Once you’ve learned more about some of the specific threats fleas pose for your dog, talk to your veterinarian about smart preventative care or to schedule treatment for signs of a flea-related disorder. Watch out for the following four health problems in particular.
1. Tapeworm Infestations
Long, flat, segmented worms known as tapeworms commonly inhabit animals’ small intestines, where they steal nourishment from the food the animal consumes. Fleas often carry tapeworm eggs. When a dog accidentally ingests an egg-ridden flea while grooming, the eggs can grow to maturity inside the dog.
Thankfully, most dogs can survive a tapeworm infestation without major complications or dangers. Even so, the invading worms can deprive your pet of valuable nutrients, potentially leading to weight loss. Geriatric dogs, puppies, and immune-compromised animals face additional risks of serious intestinal problems.
If your dog scoots their bottom along the floor, a tapeworm infestation could be the cause of anal itching and irritation. Your veterinarian can prescribe medications to kill the tapeworms and restore your dog’s comfort.
2. Canine Bartonellosis
Fleas don’t just carry parasites — they can also carry dangerous bacteria. One such germ known as Bartonella can infect dogs, cats, and other mammals (including humans), resulting in a serious disease called Bartonellosis. Ticks, lice, and sand fleas can also transmit Bartonella bacteria to animals.
A dog that comes down with Bartonellosis may show symptoms such as coughing diarrhea, vomiting, fever, eye and nose irritation, and lameness. The disease can cause such diverse problems as arthritis, lymph node inflammation, liver and spleen swelling, and even seizures.
If you think your dog has Bartonellosis, bring them to the veterinarian right away for evaluation antibiotic treatment. To minimize the risk of your dog getting this disease, put them on a pest prevention routine, and keep it away from areas where fleas and other carriers roam.
Fleas get their nourishment by consuming the blood of their host animals through bites. A single flea can only draw a tiny, harmless amount of blood from a host. However, this minimal impact can add up over the course of recurring attacks by horde after horde of biting fleas, potentially leading to anemia (lack of red blood cells).
Anemia from flea bites can prove especially dangerous to toy breeds, very young dogs, and canines already suffering from a low red blood cell count. Unchecked, the condition can lead to severe illness and death in these animals.
Take steps to protect your dog from this threat. Ask your veterinarian to prescribe a course of preventative monthly medications that kill adult fleas and prevent flea larvae from maturing. These products may be powders, shampoos, pills, or topical creams.
4. Contact Dermatitis
Flea bites can irritate your dog’s skin above and beyond the simple damage from the bite itself. Flea saliva can trigger an allergic reaction, with the immune system sending histamine to the bite wound. Veterinarians refer to the resulting itchy, red welts as contact dermatitis.
As you might imagine, a dog suffering from contact dermatitis will instinctively scratch, lick, or chew flea bites where contact dermatitis occurs in an effort to relieve the discomfort. Unfortunately, these actions can easily break the skin, paving the way for bacteria to enter the fresh wounds and produce secondary infections.
The preventative medications the veterinarian prescribes can help you keep fleas away from your dog’s sensitive skin. Proper lawn maintenance and thorough, regular home vacuuming can also lower risks for flea-induced contact dermatitis.
If your dog needs a trusted ally in the battle against fleas, contact 1st Pet Veterinary Centers. Our skilled team can treat health problems related to flea infestations and help your pet avoid such problems going forward.