Fleas on cats
Fleas on cats can cause more than just minor discomfort and itchy skin. Cat fleas are a common pet parasite that can carry a host of harmful diseases for both cats and humans.
How can flea bites harm your pet?
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
While some pets may not even notice a flea bite, others may suffer from allergies. Flea allergy dermatitis is caused by severe reaction to compounds and anticoagulants in the flea’s saliva. One single bite can cause more irritation to a cat with flea allergy dermatitis than several flea bites on a cat with no allergies.
Some obvious symptoms of a cat flea allergy include severe itching, red inflamed skin and crusty papules (small raised skin lesions), as well as hair loss. Hair loss or alopecia is commonly seen as a thinning or a complete loss of hair above the base of the tail. Severely affected cats can experience generalized hair loss all over their bodies.
Flea allergy dermatitis also affects humans and dogs. Despite advances in flea control, flea allergy dermatitis still continues to be a significant medical problem. Flea allergy treatment should begin immediately.
Flea Bite Anemia
Cat fleas and ticks are both devout consumers of blood. Fleas are also notorious breeders. In a single day a flea can bite your feline hundreds of times. One female flea alone can lay about 50 eggs per day. Hungry fleas on cats can cause severe blood loss and anemia.
Flea bite anemia is a most serious medical condition that can lead to death. Feline anemia can severely affect older cats, smaller cats and kittens as well as felines in poor health. Homeless and feral cats are always at risk.
Anemia is characterized by pale gums, weakness, lethargy, and even digestion and eye problems. Feline anemia can also be compounded by dehydration, which is an abnormal depletion of body fluids. Felines also may loose vital body temperature and suffer from constipation due to dehydration.
A feline with flea bite anemia must be treated immediately by a veterinarian. The cat should be kept warm. The fleas must be removed as quickly as possible. In severe cases blood transfusions are needed.
Fleas on cats can introduce cat tapeworms into your feline’s body. A common tapeworm that affects cats and dogs is the Dipylidium tapeworm. This intestinal worm parasite has a lifecycle that depends on the presence of fleas. The end of a tapeworm consists of segments which look like grains of white rice. These segments, containing eggs, break away from the resident tapeworm and arrive in your environment on feces (poop) or attached to the anus area (rear end) of your pet. As these segments dry the tapeworm eggs are released.
Meanwhile, as flea larvae graze on the floor for food they can ingest tapeworm eggs. These eggs then hatch into tapeworm larvae inside the developing flea. When this flea larva matures into an adult flea, the adult can hop up on to your pet, where it resides. Your pet can swallow it, usually when grooming. The tapeworm life cycle is nearly complete. The adult flea is digested by your pet releasing a young tapeworm ready to attach itself to your pet’s intestinal walls.
Your veterinarian will provide you with a worming medicine which will remove the cat tapeworms from your pet’s body. The tapeworm medication and other treatments are usually only effective if coupled with a flea control program that attacks the fleas as they develop through the different stages of their lifecycle. Fleas must be completely removed from your pets and their living areas.
Fleas on cats can carry disease
These may include, but are not limited to, feline leukemia, and Bartonella henselae (cat scratch disease).
Symptoms of these diseases may vary. They may include pet irritability, refusal to eat or drink, lethargy, erratic appetite, diarrhea, constipation, shaggy coat, weight loss, seizures, enlarged lymph nodes and other changes in behavior.
Flea bite treatment – just for humans
If you have been bitten by a flea you may have several bites on your legs and ankles. These flea bites may look like red circular swollen areas with a white center and may be found in clusters. The bites can be treated with Vaseline, menthol, camphor, calamine lotion anti-itch medications or ice. Don’t apply the medications to your pets as they can easily lick and swallow these solutions.
Flea treatment for pets
If fleas have been discovered, give your veterinarian a call so treatments can be started right away. It is much safer for your pet if you purchase flea prevention medications directly from your vet or other licensed reputable health professionals. Less expensive or counterfeit flea control products can be as dangerous as tainted cat food.
Do use caution. Follow the instructions exactly. Do not use dog products on cats. Improper use or an incorrect dosage can easily kill your pet. Even some natural organic products can be extremely harmful.
If your pet shows any signs of distress after applying flea control products it is critical that you contact your vet immediately.