More than 2,000 types of fleas live in the environment. They are a common pest for dogs as well as owners. Certain dogs are hypersensitive to a flea’s saliva, and one bite can send a dog into an itching frenzy. Skin allergies and fleas often coincide. This problem is usually manageable if treated early. If left untreated, however, a few fleas can quickly turn into an infestation. Fleas feed on blood, transfer parasites and diseases, which can be fatal if left untreated.
Blood Loss Anemia
Anemia is a deficiency of red blood cells, which carry oxygen through the circulatory system to organs and muscles. In adult dogs, the normal concentration of red cells in whole blood is 39 to 60 percent by volume. Less than 37 percent is considered anemic. Since blood is a flea's diet, in large numbers they can drain blood from a dog faster than his body can replenish. Small dogs and puppies are especially susceptible to this danger. Symptoms of anemia are:
- Pale mucous membranes, such as the gums and tongue.
Severe anemia also will cause a rapid respiratory and pulse rate.
Besides the gums and tongue, skin inside a dog’s ears will reveal paleness. If you see an off coloration in any of these areas, seek veterinary attention immediately.
Haemobartonellosis in Dogs
Although Haemobartonellosis (hemotrophic mycoplasmosis) is diagnosed more often in felines than canines, canines are still at risk. It’s an infection of the red blood cells, caused by a bacterial blood parasite transmitted by fleas and ticks feeding off infected animals. Since this parasite can survive without oxygen and lacks true cell walls, it’s resistant to antibiotics and challenging to detect. Symptoms include:
- Pale to whitish gums
Typically, infected dogs show mild signs unless their spleen has been surgically removed. The spleen filters damaged red cells. Without it, damaged blood cells from the parasite overload a dog’s system.
Fleas and Tapeworms
Fleas are a natural host for tapeworm eggs. Tapeworms (Dipylidum caninum) are flat intestinal parasites made up of small segments. When a dog ingests an infected flea, a tapeworm begins to mature and attach itself to a dog’s intestinal wall. To the naked eye, tapeworm segments resemble grains of rice and can be seen in a dog’s stool or in the hair around his anus. If a dog has tapeworms, scooting his bottom along the ground is a common symptom. Normally, this intestinal parasite is among the least harmful to an adult dog. In puppies, however, a heavy infestation is serious. It can cause:
- Lack of growth
- Intestinal blockages.
Medications to treat tapeworms are highly effective. If tapeworms reappear, the underlying problem is flea control.
Fleas are a nuisance and a hazard, but fortunately they can be controlled. There are different forms of flea preventive available. There are effective topical applications as well as oral medications, which usually are given once a month. Talk to your veterinarian about a product that is safest and most effective for your pet. Flea preventive should be used regularly throughout the flea season. In many parts of the country this is year round, especially in the warmer Southern states.
The chemicals in topical flea preventives can be irritating to sensitive adults and children. Always be sure to wash your hands after applying, and if possible, keep your dog separated from the family until the application dries.