Fleas can spread disease. And while only 25% of the U.S. households have problems with fleas, cat owners are at great risk in particular. Only cat owners are likely to see fleas on their pets, but fleas are not just a problem for cats -Â dog owners can also get their dogs infested with fleas. If you have a cat, or if you live in an area where flea infestations are common, it is important to learn about the best ways to protect your pet from flea-borne illness and protect yourself from exposure to these potentially harmful insects. Fleas are certainly a nuisance, but what people don’t realize is that fleas can spread disease. In fact, flea bites introduce parasites into the bodies of dogs and cats that can cause serious illness. Here I will explain everything you need to know about this disease and how it spreads from pets to their owners, children and even grandparents. Flea bites can be very uncomfortable and annoying—not to mention, they can spread disease. While most flea bites lead to nothing more than a few uncomfortable days, those who are particularly susceptible to allergies may suffer extreme reactions. Unfortunately for those who suffer from allergies or are in the midst of a flea infestation on their own property, fleas have begun to evolve into longer-term pests that can linger for months or even years at a time. Fleas can spread a multitude of diseases and infections, some of which can be deadly. Fleas are parasites that have evolved with their host. The body of the flea contains three important factors that allow them to survive, grow and reproduce throughout their life cycle (Eckert, 2015). The first is a chemical signal called octopamine. Octopamine sends nicotine into the blood when it senses the presence of a blood vessel or the body of a host. This allows the flea to signal its host to stop struggling and remain still so it can feed on the blood from the host’s vein (Eckert, 2015). The second factor is a saliva secretion under its claws that contains enzymes that react well with blood and produce an anticoagulant so the flea can use its saliva like a straw to drink blood from its host’s vessel (Eckert, 2015). The third factor is also octopamine produced in every compound eyespot across their skin to tell other fleas around them they have found food (Dudac, 2014).
Can Fleas Spread Disease
Fleas are a nuisance, but these small insects are more than just an itchy annoyance for you and your pets.
Fleas are a nuisance, but these small insects are more than just an itchy annoyance for you and your pets. Fleas feed on the blood of animals—including humans—and they can cause allergic reactions in both cats and dogs. They also spread some diseases to people and other animals, including plague, typhus, murine typhus, cat-scratch disease, tularemia (rabbit fever), bartonellosis (cat scratch fever also known as “Strawberry Hand” or “Cat Scratch Disease”) and other tickborne illnesses such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
As pests, fleas hitch rides on pets to do one thing—find food.
Fleas are parasites, meaning that they need a host to survive. And if you think of your pet as a flea’s host, then you’re right—but even you can be the source of a flea infestation if you don’t take preventative measures.
As pests, fleas hitch rides on pets to do one thing—find food. They go where the food is, and that means both in your home and on your dog or cat (or pig or cow). The truth is that no matter what kind of animal you have in the house, it’s likely that at some point it’ll encounter these tiny insects with big ambitions: finding something warm-blooded to settle in and munch away at their blood meal until they’re full enough to lay eggs.
Fleas can also spread diseases such as bartonellosis (cat-scratch disease), cat-flea anemia, and tapeworms in cats and dogs.
Other diseases that fleas can spread include:
- Bartonellosis (cat-scratch disease). This is a bacterial infection that causes a skin ulceration and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. It’s caused by Bartonella henselae (the bacterium that causes cat-scratch disease) found on the mouthparts of fleas.
- Cat-flea anemia. Fleas transmit this blood parasite that destroys red blood cells, leading to anemia, low platelet counts, jaundice and liver enlargement in cats.
- Tapeworms. These parasites live in your cat or dog’s intestines and pass out their feces where they may be picked up by another animal or person who comes into contact with them—via shoes or pets’ beds—and ingested again through contact with their mouths or hands after touching contaminated surfaces such as carpeting, furniture etcetera.”
Some fleas, such as the oriental rat flea, can jump onto humans and cause bubonic plague.
If a flea bites a human, it may transmit the diseases it carries to its host. The most common disease transmitted this way is typhus. Typhus is also spread by body lice, body ticks and mites that live on humans. Fleas can also transmit plague to humans if they are infected with Yersinia pestis (the bacteria that causes plague). Fleas have been associated with the spread of bubonic plague in both developing countries and developed countries like Europe during past history.
Some fleas, such as the oriental rat flea Xenopsylla cheopis, which feeds on rats and other rodents, can jump onto humans and cause bubonic plague (called Oriental rat flea-borne typhus when transmitted by this type of flea). This type of pest occurs in many parts of Asia where rats live close to people. Other types of fleas such as cat fleas or rodent/seabird/small mammal harboring ticks may also transmit diseases to people that are exposed to them such as typhus or trench fever.
Fleas can spread disease to humans as well as to pet animals.
Fleas are insects that feed on blood. They are common parasites of many mammals and birds, including humans. The cat flea is the most common species of flea.
The female lays eggs and then the eggs hatch into larvae and then pupae. Some fleas can jump onto humans and cause bubonic plague, which was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. Flea bites on humans can cause a skin reaction known as urticarial dermatitis or allergic hypersensitivity syndrome, which may be severe enough to require hospitalization for intravenous fluids or antihistamines if left untreated.
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