The weather is warming and the fleas are coming! Flea infestations can happen to any pet, most notably in the humid areas of the Southern U.S. (hey Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, we're looking at you!). If your pet goes outside or is in contact with other people's pets, then it is very easy for them to pick up fleas. You should check your pet periodically for fleas, especially if you notice an unusual amount of scratching. Your pet's health and your own can be impacted if a flea problem is not addressed.
Your Pet’s Health
Fleas are not just an irritant to your pet, they can cause your pet some real health issues. The most common problem is flea bite dermatitis, which is an allergy that is caused by a reaction to flea saliva. This allergic reaction can result in intense scratching that leads to the skin becoming broken. Fleas can also cause internal infections like tapeworm infestations, which happen if your pet ingests fleas that carry tapeworms. Tapeworms are noticed in the feces or around the anus and look like grains of white rice or small cucumber seeds. They cause itching around the rear end and can result in weight loss and intestinal blockage. If your pet is young and has a severe flea infestation, they can also suffer from flea bite anemia, which is when they become anemic due to red blood cell loss. This can be a serious issue and often requires a visit to your veterinarian.
Although the risk of humans contracting a disease from fleas is low, they can cause intensely itchy skin irritations from their saliva when they bite. Flea bite discomfort must run its course but the itching can be managed with anti-itch hydrocortisone, aloe vera, or tea tree oil. If you are allergic to flea saliva, you may show symptoms including nausea, dizziness, tongue swelling, and even difficulty breathing. If these symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately. Accidentally ingesting a flea may cause tapeworm in humans, as well as animals.
Cat fleas can carry Bartonella henselae, a bacteria known to cause the disease "cat scratch fever." This is a bacterial infection, and you can get it from being scratched by a cat that has been bitten by an infected flea. You can also become infected from the cat's saliva coming into contact with an open area on your skin. This disease is more prevalent in the Southern United States, and you are more susceptible if your immune system is weakened. Symptoms include low-grade fever, swollen lymph nodes, and body aches. Cat scratch fever is not generally serious and can be treated easily by your medical care provider.
Did you know fleas can also carry bubonic plague? It's not common and humans in modern times are rarely affected, but it's yet another reason to be concerned about fleas on your pet and you.
Your Peace of Mind
Fleas not only carry various diseases and cause skin irritations, but they also can cause some serious stress for your family. If you do not treat your pets quickly when you see fleas, then the few fleas on your pet can rapidly become a severe infestation in your yard and in your home. Once this happens, it becomes much more difficult to rid yourself of these pests. You will have to treat your yard and home, and you may even have to hire a pest control company, depending on the severity of the infestation.
If you know that you live in an area prone to fleas, early prevention is critical to keeping your home clear of these unwanted guests. Here at Homescape Pets, we feed our pups fresh, raw garlic with their meals each day to help deter fleas. If prevention isn't possible, then treating your pet at the first signs of fleas will save you much stress later.
Fortunately, if there are just a few fleas on your pet and not many in your home or yard, there are many natural options for reducing and ridding your home and pets of fleas. A few that we use are food-grade diatomaceous earth and nematodes for the yard. We have had great success using vinegar baths when we have discovered fleas on our pups, and Wondercide flea & tick spray has done a great job preventing them in the yard as well as on the pups. The key is to treat immediately. If they are discovered, treat the fur babies immediately and don't forget the carpet and their beds.
We all want our pets to be healthy and happy. Take a look here at some healthy pet products we love!