Flea infestation health risks aren’t something that I see as much as I’d like to in pet discussion forums.
I’d love to see more people ask questions like “How is my dog’s health affected when he is infested with fleas?”
People know that they should keep flea preventative on their pets because flea bites can be itchy. They also know that fleas can be brought into the house. And that’s where a lot of the focus is.
People don’t want fleas in their home.
I get it.
But there are significant flea infestation health risks that dogs can face.
Since some people don’t stay on top of flea preventative as routinely as they should (I’ve been guilty of it) I think it’s important for them to know what those health risks are.
Flea Infestation Health Risks and Your Dog
We all know that flea bites can cause itching. However, many people don’t realize that when fleas really set up shop on a dog, they can cause much more than itching.
In fact, itching is just the tip of the iceberg. And when dogs are well and truly infested with fleas, the health risks are quite serious.
Although we all know that itching comes part and parcel with flea bites, I’m still including it. That’s because flea infestation can take itching to an entirely new level. It’s not just itching. It’s an epic-level descent into itch agony from which there is no escape. Which leads us to…
The intense itching from a flea infestation can lead to secondary hot spots.
Hot spots occur when a dog licks or chew excessively in one area. After prolonged licking or chewing, the skin in the area breaks down which leads to infection. The infection can become quite severe if it isn’t caught in time.
If your dog develops a hot spot, make an appointment with your vet. Determining the underlying cause (in this case, we’re assuming fleas but it’s better to know for sure) helps you find the best treatment for your pup. It’s best to see the vet when the hot spot is still new, before it becomes a mess of an open sore.
Caught early enough, treating it could be as simple as shaving the area and applying corticosteroids. If you let it go too far, your dog could need antibiotics, pain killers, and more.
Flea infestation health risks also include allergic dermatitis.
In layman’s terms, it’s inflammation of the skin due to an allergic reaction.
In this case, fleas.
Over time, allergic dermatitis can lead to dry and flaky skin OR oily, greasy skin. In severe cases, the inflammation can be so bad that it causes hair loss and thickened, painful skin. Dogs can develop flea allergies at any time, so even if your dog never showed signs of it in the past, it’s absolutely possible that this is the year he becomes miserably allergic to them.
Fleas feed off of a dog’s blood. Normally, this won’t lead to anything other than itching or an allergic reaction.
In the case of a full blown flea infestation, however, it can lead to anemia. The fleas feed on a dog’s blood just a little bit faster than he can make it. An anemic dog will appear listless and lethargic. Again, catching it early is key.
Mild cases of anemia in dogs are easily treated. Severe cases could require blood transfusions.
Fleas transmit tapeworms, which are intestinal parasites.
These worms hatch from eggs that have been given to the dog via a flea bite. It really only takes one bite from an infected flea to transmit tapeworms, but in a flea infestation, there is a much higher risk of a dog becoming infested with both fleas AND tapeworms.
Signs of a tapeworm infestation in dogs include: scooting, constantly itching and licking around the anus, weight loss and increased appetite, and dry or dull skin or fur.
It’s important to note that your dog can have tapeworms for quite a while before you notice any weight loss issues. In some cases, a massive infestation can cause intestinal blockage and other life-threatening issues.
Flea Infestation Health Risks are Totally Preventable
Flea infestation health risks are real, and they can be quite dangerous to your dog.
But the good news is that they are easily avoidable. To avoid a flea infestation and flea infestation health risks, simply give your dog a monthly dose of flea preventative. I advise against mass-retail store bought preventatives.
They are not as effective or as trustworthy as the flea treatments you get at your vet, and some of the cheaper brands can actually be more harmful than the fleas. You can also ask your vet for a recommendation, then buy they flea preventative cheaper from reputable online pet stores.
Then you won’t have to worry about flea infestations! WOOT!