Fleas are nightmares to companion animals such as dogs. These wingless, hopping insects suck blood from the host dog for hours on end each day. Fleas carry many deadly diseases that can severely injure or even kill a dog through lung infections, blood poisoning or lymph node infections. Only a professional veterinarian can determine what, if any, diseases are present in the dog.
Anemia in Small Dogs
Large numbers of fleas living on toy dogs and puppies can cause severe anemia. Since a single adult flea drinks blood for eight hours straight, ingesting 15 microliters of blood at each feast, it's easy to see how hundreds of them all working together can cause severe anemia in a small animal. To make matters worse, fleas reproduce after they have a big meal, which creates more future flea problems for the animal.
Fleas bite, causing itching in the skin. Even before it bites, the flea causes itching just walking around on the animal. This itching makes the dog react by biting the area. The result is often torn skin and pulled out fur. These raw areas are prone to infection if not treated and will get worse if the fleas are not eradicated quickly. Some dogs are allergic to flea bites, so this makes the itching and soreness even worse.
Other More Serious Ailments
Fleas carry diseases or parasites that they transmit to the host animal. Dipylidium caninum tapeworms, for example, are transmitted to the animal when he eats adult fleas while biting his own skin and fur while trying to relieve the relentless itching. Fleas also carry Yersinia pestis, the cause of bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic plague, depending on which part of the body they infest. Fleas carry the typhus-causing rickettsia bacteria and the myxomatosis-causing leporipoxvirus.
Causes of Flea Infestation
Fleas like warm, damp environments -- the hotter and more humid, the better for their life cycle. Dogs living in these types of environments should be aggressively treated with preventive measures. Dogs can also get fleas from other animals who have them, or from infested bedding, carpeting, furniture or stuffed toys where flea larvae can survive for several weeks. Since fleas are very good hoppers, they can travel a long distance on one leap.
- Dean Golja/Photodisc/Getty Images