Fleas are truly devoted to their work. In one day, a single flea can bite your cat or dog more than 400 times. During that same day, the flea can consume more than its body weight of your pet’s blood. And before it’s through, a female flea can lay hundreds of eggs on your pet, ensuring that its work will be carried on by generations to come.
Flea bites may be merely a nuisance to some pets, but to others, they can be dangerous. They can cause flea allergy dermatitis—an allergic reaction to proteins in flea saliva. A pet’s constant scratching to rid itself of fleas can cause permanent hair loss and other skin problems. A pet can get a tapeworm if it eats a flea that has one. And flea feasts on your pet’s blood can lead to anemia and, in rare cases, death.
But fleas are not your pet’s only nemesis. Tick bites can give your pet such infections as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. And ticks can give those same infections to you.
The good news is fleas and ticks are getting easier to control. “In the last five years, flea products have greatly improved,” says Ann Stohlman, V.M.D., a veterinarian at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. Some flea prevention treatments also help kill ticks.
In years past, veterinarians recommended getting rid of fleas by simultaneously “bombing” the house with insecticide, spraying the yard, and dipping the dog or cat, says Stohlman. Today, treating only the pet often takes care of the problem. “But if there is a severe flea infestation or if the problem persists, you may still need to treat the pet’s environment,” she says.