We know that they’re an annoying fact of life, but are fleas dangerous? Why should you get rid of them when you can just weather the storm and endure a few scratches here and there?
Well, this may surprise you, but there are actually a lot of reasons that prove how dangerous fleas are. Some of them are even deadly.
So if you’re still considering trying out flea treatments, maybe these will convince you.
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Fleas cause allergic reactions
When it comes to bites and stings, the most obvious problem for any pet or human is an allergic reaction.
Although it’s not that common, fleas are known to cause flea bite dermatitis to dogs and cats. It’s a specific allergy to the insect’s saliva that causes symptoms that range from mild and uncomfortable red bumps to severe cases of hair loss and infection.
Pets tend to react instinctively to an itch by scratching it. But when they’re allergic to fleas, the intense scratching can cause skin to break open and get infected. In some cases, the fur even thins out. According to Pet MD, this mostly happens near the tail.
For humans, cases of anaphylaxis and fleas are usually quite rare. What mostly happens is the development of hives. It starts out with a group of halos on red bumps, and then it quickly turns into a legion of itchy wheals all over your body. This happens 12 to 24 hours after the initial flea bite.
So for both humans and pets, leaving allergic reactions alone can cause serious issues with the skin and even inside the body.
Fleas carry tapeworms
Fleas are parasites that are known to carry parasites of their own.
That’s right. When your home is infested with fleas, you and your pets won’t just suffer from their bites. You could harbor worms as well.
Dipylidium caninum is a group of over a thousand different parasitic flatworms. These cestodes, as what they’re commonly called, attach themselves to the intestine’s walls with hook-like parts of their bodies and feed on what your kids or pets eat.
Members of your house get these disgusting creatures when infected fleas from the outside hitch a ride on your pet. Tapeworms reproduce by shedding segments of their bodies. These segments are egg sacs that are then carried off when animals relieve themselves. The segments break over time, and flea larvae that happen to live near the animals’ feces eat it along with the eggs.
The tapeworm eggs then develop inside the flea larvae’s bodies, and mature as they do. So when these fleas finally reach a host, accidentally consuming just one of them causes the worm to enter into the body. And the whole cycle starts all over again.
With the case of humans getting tapeworms, it’s possible that we can get them like how pets do, according to Boston Street Vet. And even if you accidentally consume just parts of the flea, there’s still a big possibility of getting tapeworms.
The scariest thing about this is that there aren’t obvious signs that tell you someone’s been infected. And it’s especially dangerous to kids that love to put things in their mouths. So when you do have a flea problem, it’s best to have everyone in the house checked out for worms.
Fleas can cause anemia in cats
In major infestations, fleas can give cats and even puppies anemia.
Normally, this won’t even be possible. But when you leave fleas to their own devices, fragile animals can develop anemia. The small and old are the usual targets. They include puppies and all types of cats, the aging ones, kittens and the ones that are suffering from a major injury. Their weak immune system make them vulnerable to the crippling effects of blood loss.
It’s easy to tell if your pet is heavily infested with fleas. But if you suspect your pet to have anemia as well, The Nest suggests to watch out for these symptoms: listlessness, weight loss, rapid breathing, loss of appetite, a fast pulse, dark and sticky feces and too much sleeping.
Don’t let your animals get into this state. The first signs of fleas should be treated immediately. Here are some treatments you can apply to make this happen.
Fleas spread the “Black Death”
No, it can’t get any more sinister than that.
Nothing scarier is connected to fleas than the “Black Death” itself. Now known as the “Plague”, this bacterial disease easily wiped out millions of people in Europe and some parts of Asia back in the 14th century.
The Plague is classified into several other kinds. However, the Bubonic Plague is the kind that’s most associated with fleas. It’s spread by oriental rat fleas, usually just affecting rodents. But when it does reach humans, large and painful lymph nodes appear on your body and high fever quickly takes over. The disease choruses with a horrible case of gangrene in the toes, lips and even on the nose.
According to a study about Flea-borne Diseases from the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, this dangerous illness is still happening in this day and age. Small outbreaks still occur worldwide with 2000 cases happening annually as reported by the World Health Organization. In the US alone, the Center for Disease Control says that the plague has been detected mostly in the rural west since the 20th century.
Fleas cause other deadly diseases
Lastly, the same study on Flea-borne Diseases tells that these illnesses are expanding all over the world.
Rat fleas, in particular, spread murine typhus. It’s a flea-born typhus that’s usually contracted by travelers who are returning from regions that have the disease. Humans are infected when they come in contact with flea feces riddled with the bacteria, Rickettsia typhi. The symptoms can include high fever, chills weakness and muscle pain.
But remember that these flea-borne diseases, along with all the health issues caused by this insect, are 100% avoidable.
So you shouldn’t just ask “Are fleas dangerous?”. What you should be doing is trying to get rid of these bugs the minute you spot one. Don’t wait for a visit to the emergency room. Apply treatments that can get rid of this disease carrying pest now!