Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Tips and resources
for protecting your pets
from fleas, ticks, and
other pesky irritants.

 
Guest Expert Photo

Can Fleas and Ticks Make My Pet Sick?

The idea of fleas and ticks on your pet is enough to make anyone feel like washing out their whole house. But other than being yucky, is there really anything dangerous about a pet having fleas or being bitten by a tick? You bet there is!

In the WebMD Pet Health Community, M. Duffy Jones, DVM, explains that the intense itching and scratching caused by a flea infestation can leave your pet with dry, irritated skin that’s vulnerable to infection. Fleas can also take so much blood from a pet that he could develop “flea anemia,” which can kill an animal if left unchecked.

Ticks are harder to spot than fleas and can also cause much more severe illnesses, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Jones recommends checking your furry friends for little hitchhikers from time to time, especially after outings through wooded areas. Your vet may also want to run regular preventive checks for these diseases if your pet is outdoors a lot.  

The most important preventive measure, Jones explains, is year-round flea and tick control that’s customized to meet the needs of your pet.

One Pet Health Community member points out that cats get flea- and tick-related diseases that can differ from the kinds that dogs get. This member and Jones discuss a few other common flea and tick-related illnesses in cats, including:

  • Bartonella henselae infection. Cats can become infected by these bacteria when they ingest flea dirt (flea feces) while grooming themselves. Although it is unclear as to what disease these bacteria may lead to in cats, they are responsible for cat scratch fever in humans.
  • Feline infectious anemia. Also known as Mycoplasma haemofelis, these bacteria can cause severe anemia in cats by destroying red blood cells.
  • Cytauxzoonosis, which is transmitted by certain types of ticks and very often fatal.  

Dogs and cats can both get tapeworms by ingesting fleas that are carrying tapeworm larvae. So you should contact your veterinarian if you see any worms in your pet’s feces, on his rear end, or in his bedding.

Have you had to deal with any flea- or tick-related diseases in your pets? How did you treat them? What has been your method of protection for your pet and home?

Discussion led by M. Duffy Jones, DVM Guest Expert
Next Article:

Guest Expert What is a guest expert?

Dr. Jones is an Atlanta-based veterinarian who founded the Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital of Atlanta in 2005…More

Read Profile

Flea and Tick Protection Poll

How do you protect your pet from fleas and ticks?

View Results