Whilst no dog owner likes to think that their dog has fleas, all too many tend to view fleas as minor, or don’t even pay them any mind at all other than if faced with direct evidence of them, like being bitten themselves!
That said, even for dog owners that are really vigilant about flea treating their dog and taking care of their general preventative healthcare, fleas, whilst unpleasant, do of course seem like a minor concern compared to most other things.
After all, being told your dog has fleas might be a bit upsetting, but nothing compared to being told that your dog had, say, cancer, or a heart condition. This means that if your dog’s annual health check results in a verdict of fleas but nothing else, most dog owners would breathe a sigh of relief, or even say “is that all!”
However, fleas on dogs aren’t necessarily a minor issue. Whilst identifying a flea problem and treating at promptly and effectively can consequently be viewed as a minor issue that has been addressed adequately, dog fleas, allowing your dog to have fleas or not really paying attention to whether they do or not, or a dog having a flea infestation, might not be minor at all.
Dog fleas do more than just bite and cause itching; they can in fact have a serious impact on your dog’s health, spread diseases, and compromise your dog’s general condition and wellness.
Read on to learn why dog fleas aren’t a minor issue, and should be considered with the appropriate degree of gravitas.
A dog that has fleas over the long term might, you would think, stop noticing them entirely; but the opposite is true. A dog that is continually being bitten by fleas may eventually develop a hypersensitivity to them, known as flea bite dermatitis, which causes every single bite they get to turn into a big deal, which will be horrendously itchy, painful, sore and inflamed.
Just one such bite requires veterinary treatment, and flea bite hypersensitivity or dermatitis cannot be reversed once a dog has developed it.
Flea bites can become infected and make your dog quite ill
When your dog bites at, scratches or licks a flea bite, they run the risk of it developing an infection, particularly if they break the skin. Skin infections will often clear up on their own or with a short dose of antibiotics, but they still need to be seen by the vet, and can be more serious and harder to treat too.
Fleas aren’t just a pest in and of themselves, but they also carry a parasite of their own, which is the potential for tapeworms. What’s worse is that fleas can cause tapeworms to spread from dog to dog, but they can also spread them to humans as well.
Flea infestation will make your dog’s skin sore and irritable, as will the scratching that it causes. Add moisture from your dog licking their bites and inflamed skin, and they will generally be uncomfortable, and their skin vulnerable to picking up bacterial infections and other problems like fungal conditions too.
Additionally, as you might expect from a dog whose skin is sore and in poor condition, their coat will suffer too, and flea infested dogs rarely have good quality coats or look in general like dogs in the peak of health.
Fleas bite dogs to suck their blood, and the itchy irritation they leave is a result of an enzyme in their saliva that thins the blood for them to consume. This is what we tend to think of as the main effect of flea bites; irritation. However, fleas do of course consume blood from your dog, and if they’re infested with a huge amount of fleas all feeding on your dog, this can result in anaemia and all manner of other issues.
Anaemia is a problem for dogs in and of itself, but also, over time it will have a knock-on effect on your dog’s immune system, making them generally run down and much more prone to picking up illnesses and otherwise minor ills that their immune systems would fight off without a problem in a healthy dog.
Bartonella is a type of bacteria that can result in infection with a disease many of us know as “cat scratch fever,” and the bacteria is carried by around 40% of all cats with no ill effect, and can be passed to humans (and other animals) along with a scratch from a swiping paw; hence the name!
However, dogs can and sometimes do also carry bartonella, because fleas can and often do carry it themselves, which means those fleas that you may think of as minor could spread a bacterial infection to your dog, or even yourself too.