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Flea-Borne Diseases in Dogs

Fleas are annoying insects that parasitize animals like birds, wild animals, rodents and companion animals. Fleas infect a large variety of species, and they are also carriers of several pathogens and diseases. In addition, these pathogens may be bacteria such as Bartonella, Rickettsia, and other parasites like tapeworms.

Flea-borne diseases are infections and pathogens that fleas (vectors) carry, which are then transmitted to our pets

Furthermore, the majority of flea-borne diseases cause symptoms such as alopecia, anemia, and scratching. Unfortunately, when these diseases are not treated, they result in fever, pneumonia, and muscle wastage due to the secondary infection, and severe anemia that may lead to shock and in the end death.

What are the Symptoms of Flea-borne diseases in Dogs

Dogs that are infected by flea may show the following symptoms:

  • Alopecia (hair loss)
  • Skin cracking
  • Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD)
  • Skin pain
  • Intensive scratching
  • Hyperpigmentation of skin
  • Tapeworm
  • Nosebleed
  • Vomiting
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • Parasites visible when passing stool
  • Progressive weight loss
  • Bartonella
  • Abdominal pain (colic)
  • Inflammation of the endocardium
  • Types of Flea-borne diseases
  • Canine tapeworms
  • Cat scratch fever (Bartonella henselae)
  • Flea allergy dermatitis

Causes of Flea-borne diseases

These diseases may be triggered by various factors such as contact with wild animals such as birds, rats or mice, lack of regular flea treatments and Flea Allergy Dermatitis.

Moreover, the flea’s antigenic salivary protein entering the skin subcutaneously because the flea’s saliva contains chemical compounds such as amino acids and histamine, which result in hypersensitivity. Breed genetic predisposition includes Chowchow, Spaniels and Terriers.

Canine Tapeworm

This disease usually occurs when dogs ingest the larvae of fleas either through consumption of a dead wild animal or through self-grooming.

Cat Scratch Fever

The cat scratch fever also known as gram-negative bacteria called Bartonella henselae, which is carried by fleas and other infected hosts dogs and cats inclusive, is the cause of this disease and most times, it spreads because of blood-to-blood contact.

Diagnosis of Flea-Borne Disease in Dogs

Flea Allergic Dermatitis

To take a proper diagnosis of FAD, the veterinarian may inspect your dog for fleas, check for loss of hair, and inflammation around cracked skin. In addition, vets are likely to conduct an intradermal test, which involves using special strains of flea saliva to test the dog’s hypersensitivity to a particular pressure.

Canine tapeworm

Diagnosis of canine tapeworm requires the pet owner to collect a sample of the dog’s stool for the veterinarian to perform a fecal flotation test and microscopic exam of the feces. This process shows the estimated number of eggs and larvae present in the dog’s intestine. Also, vets may ask the following questions: Evidence of scooting and history of flea treatment and regular worming.


Vets perform complete blood chemistry and urinalysis on the infected dog since Bartonella is a bacteria. It is necessary when determining white and red blood cell count; an indication of increased white blood cells may imply a bacterial infection.

Furthermore, the vet may have to look for clinical signs such as bruising or bleeding because of decreased platelets production. Assays will be performed to detect the DNA of the bacteria in the blood if blood cultures fail.

However, you can protect your four-legged best friend from this trouble by eliminating fleas from your home.