Adult fleas are not only a nuisance to humans and their pets, but can cause medical problems including flea allergy dermatitis, tapeworms, secondary skin irritations and, in extreme cases, anemia. Although bites are rarely felt, it is the resulting irritation caused by the flea salivary secretions that varies among individuals.
Some may witness a severe reaction (general rash or inflammation) resulting in secondary infections caused by scratching the irritated skin area. Others may show no reaction or irritation acquired after repeated bites over several weeks or months. Most bites usually found on the ankles and legs may cause pain lasting a few minutes, hours or days depending on one's sensitivity. The typical reaction to the bite is the formation of a small, hard, red, slightly-raised (swollen) itching spot. There is a single puncture point in the center of each spot. Ants and spiders leave two marks when they bite. Mosquitoes, bees, wasps and bedbugs cause a large swelling or welt.
Also, fleas may transmit bubonic plague from rodent to rodent and from rodent to humans. Oriental rat fleas can transmit murine typhus (endemic typhus) fever among rats and from rats to humans. Tapeworms normally infest dogs and cats but may appear in children if parts of infested fleas are accidentally consumed.
Small (1/12 - 1/16" long) dark, reddish-brown, wingless, blood-sucking insects. Hard, flattened bodies covered with short spines and long legs adapted for jumping.
egg, larva, pupa, biting adult
The Flea Life Cycle consists of 4 Stages:
Pets infested with fleas will bite and scratch themselves constantly. Their coats become roughened and the skin can become infected. Watch for excessive scratching and use a flea comb on your pet regularly, checking for black specks or "flea dirt." The usual flea bite has a small red spot where the flea has bitten.
Common Flea-Related Problems:
Besides the discomfort even one flea bite can cause people and pets, there are more serious medical concerns that may result from fleas.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) - Some pets or people may develop an allergy to flea saliva. Even one flea bite can result in significant irritation, itchiness and aggravation that lasts up to 5 days. It is characterized by small scabs and redness at the bite site, hair loss and secondary infection. The primary treatment is to remove the existing fleas and prevent future flea bites.
Tape Worms - this intestinal parasite is a common ailment associated with fleas. Though not transmitted by bites, fleas cause tape worms when a pet ingests a flea carrying the tapeworm larva while grooming itself. After ingestion, the tapeworm larva develop and move through the gastrointestinal tract. The parasite segments resemble small pieces of rice and may be discovered around the anal region of your pet.
Flea Bite Anemia - occurs in severe flea infestations or in very young pets. When a flea bites, it feeds on blood. With many fleas feeding at the same time, significant blood loss can occur, resulting in severe anemia. Blood transfusions, iron supplementation and hospitalization are frequently necessary. Flea bite anemia may even be fatal to some pets.
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