Watch it! fleas spread diseases
Fleas have been the scourge of man and beast for hundreds of years. Not only do they bite and make their victims feel very itchy and extremely uncomfortable, they are carriers of diseases, which they manage to spread far and wide.
Since it is almost impossible to avoid fleas, those of us who own pets, or live in country areas where various types of rodents frequent, must be aware and informed about these diseases and their symptoms.
Here's a list of the main ones:
Fleas also transmit tapeworms; these are parasites that can cause anemia, diarrhea and other debilitating health problems in animals and in humans. Fortunately there is a tablet called "combantrin" which people can buy over the counter from drug stores/chemists which is an effective and safe remedy. It also comes in a paste form for pets.
Here's a brief explanation and diagram of the cycle of a flea tapeworm -it clearly shows why pet owners need to see that their cats and dogs are protected from fleas.
- The tapeworm cycle starts with the flea larvae eating faecal matter from animals which contains tapeworm eggs.
- The eggs hatch and become embryos inside the flea during the cocoon stage.
- The cocoon waits until a warm blooded host passes by to open and jump on to the unsuspecting victim.
- When an animal is bitten by an infected flea, it scratches, bites or chews at the itchy spot and in doing so may swallow the offending flea.
- Once the flea passes into the host's intestine it is broken down and the embryo develops into an adult tapeworm.
- The tapeworm then attaches itself to the lining of the intestine and feeds off the host's nutrients. Hosts meaning your pet, your children and you.
- As the tapeworm grows and matures the tail segments drop off. These segments are mobile and each contains the eggs of the tapeworm - eventually the egg segments are passed in the faeces of the host animal.
- The eggs are then ingested by the flea larvae and the tapeworm cycle starts all over again.
Diagram is by courtesy of whitney's vet
Flea Allergy dermatitis
Flea allergy dermatitis is a very itchy and painful condition.
It isn't the actual bite that humans and anmimal are allergic to, it is the protein in the flea's saliva which causes the allergy.
Cat fleas are one of the most widespread and abundant species of flea on Earth.
As the name implies, they live on cats, but they also live just as comfortably on dogs and other domestic and wild animals. They are the most common fleas found on pets.
The best way to rid yourself and pets of allergy dermatitis is to remove the cause:
- Treat your home for fleas and make sure your pets are protected from fleas.
- Visit your doctor/vet for prescribed cortisone creams.
Hives are similar to lesions caused by allergies. They vary in number, size and severity. Treatment is the same as for flea allergy dermatitis.
Cat Scratch Fever
Most people get cat scratch fever after being scratched or bitten by a cat which has a bacteria called "Bartonella henselae" in its saliva and blood stream.
Cats are infected by fleas which have previously sucked the blood of a host with "Bartonella henselae" bacterium in its blood stream.
The bacterium will also be present in flea feces in a cat's fur; therefore it is possible for humans to get the disease from petting a cat and then rubbing their eyes, or touching themselves where they have broken skin.
Treatment is with antibiotics and treating your home and pet for fleas.
Bubonic Plague is spread by rat fleas and has been responsible for millions and millions of human deaths over the past centuries. The last world out break happened at the beginning of the 20th century. There is still the occasional case reported, but now days the condition is effectively treated with antibiotics and is no longer life threatening.
Typhus is a bacterial disease that is spread from some animals to humans by rat fleas which have previously sucked the blood of a rat infected with the typhus bacteria. Fleas spread typhus bacteria to human and pet hosts in two ways:
- By a bite directly into the blood stream.
- When infected flea feces comes in contact with a small scratch or broken skin on humans or pets.
Your most effective weapon against fleas is to vacuum, and then to vacuum and again and again - fleas simply hate vacuum cleaners.