Can Dogs Die From Fleas: The Terrifying Truth

Biting, itching, and spreading everywhere, fleas are awful. Plus, they’re difficult to get rid of once your dog has them. We all worry about our dogs’ health, but how worried should you be about fleas? Unfortunately, well beyond just being uncomfortable or embarrassing, there are plenty of additional issues that can come from fleas. They are tiny creatures that can cause a big problem. I’ve dealt with infestations before. The alarming truth is that you need to be concerned and vigilant, or you will have more to worry about than a few bites very quickly.

Can dogs die from fleas? Your dog can die from fleas. A severe enough infestation can cause anemia. When your pet doesn’t have enough red blood cells and hemoglobin, it can injure or kill them.

Small Pest, Huge Problem: How Fleas Kill Dogs

Bloodloss isn’t the first thing you think of when you see fleas on your dog. The fact that most of us are more annoyed than seriously concerned contributes to the danger, but there’s more to the story than that. What makes fleas such capable parasites, and ravenous eaters?

A typical flea can eat fifteen times its body weight in blood from your dog every day. They use that fuel to lay eggs. An adult female flea lays an average of twenty to fifty in a clutch daily.  Altogether those eggs can weigh as much as the flea that made them. Female fleas will start laying eggs within thirty-six to forty-eight hours after they have their first blood-meal.

Unfortunately, even if they don’t have access to your dog’s fresh blood, a flea can live over a hundred days. A typical flea lives around two months. That’s three-thousand eggs per female on average.

Once you do the math, it’s not hard to see how that can get to be a much larger problem in short order. One flea becomes fifty overnight, and just ten fleas can make five hundred blood-sucking parasites to eat your dog alive.

Dog Anemia From Fleas

There are several types of anemia, and not all of them are caused by fleas. Fleas feed on your dog’s blood. Though it’s hard to imagine that such small creatures could take a dangerous amount from your pup, they can be deadly if left unchecked. Even minuscule amounts can add up surprisingly quickly.

While severe cases can lead to an untimely death, it’s not a foregone conclusion. When you catch it sooner, or if the case is mild, it can be managed and treated with proper veterinary care. In severe cases, your dog might need a blood transfusion, and they could die if you don’t get the treatment quickly enough. Below are the warning signs of dog anemia to look for.

Warning Signs of Doggy Anemia

Anemia, also known as Methemoglobinemia, is one of the most dangerous and potentially lethal problems that can occur from fleas. Luckily, it isn’t an invisible mystery. Though you can’t see the microscopic cause, there are plenty of warning signs. Any dog who is acting abnormally should visit the vet. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms on a dog who has or recently had fleas, make an appointment right away.

  • Black Stools (Poop)

Black or bloody poop should always be something that concerns you. It can be a sign of intestinal distress, damage, or anemia.

  • Depression

A dog who doesn’t want to play anymore, and mopes around is telling you she’s not happy. When it lasts more than a day or two, especially with other weird behavior or symptoms, your pooch might be depressed.

  • Discoloration of Skin & Mucous Membranes

When your dog has anemia, blood isn’t getting oxygen where it needs to go. They may appear pale or discolored. Check your dog’s gums, eyes, and ears for color.

  • Eating Dirt

This might seem very random, but it’s not. Soil often has iron inside it, and an anemic dog may be iron deficient. Ingesting some mud or dirt probably tastes ‘right,’ and helps your dog feel better if she has anemia.

  • Fast Pulse

A racing heart also serves a crucial function. Both hemoglobin and red blood cells are vital in carrying oxygen to your dog’s body. When something goes wrong with them, the heart tries to compensate by pumping more blood around faster.

  • Hypothermia

Blood does more than carry oxygen around the body. It helps with temperature regulation. If your dog is freezing when they shouldn’t be, they may have hypothermia.

  • Jaundice

Yellowing in the eyes is the most noticeable symptom of dog jaundice. A lack of proper nutrients because of problems with blood might be to blame, rather than a nutritional imbalance in their diet.

  • Lack of Appetite & Weight Loss

Along with depression, your dog may show signs of disinterest in their food. Healthy dogs eat regularly. If your dog has fleas and loses weight, you should schedule a vet visit in addition to treating the flea problem.

  • Rapid Breathing

Like a fast heartbeat, accelerated breathing is how your dogs’ body is trying to compensate for lower oxygen levels caused by anemia. Sadly, more breathing won’t fix the lack of red cells and hemoglobin that are needed to carry that oxygen.

  • Swelling Face or Jaw

This symptom is self-explanatory. When a dog with fleas shows signs of swelling, you should check for anemia.

  • Tiredness

Another way your pups’ body can deal with lower amounts of oxygen is to go into a state that requires less. Sleep is a temporary solution to a severe issue.

  • Vomiting

Many doggy ailments have nausea and vomiting as a symptom. Keep in mind that, though dogs are hardy creatures, throwing up is never a ‘normal’ behavior.

  • Weakness

Weakness has a similar root cause to other anemic issues. The lack of oxygenated blood in the muscle tissues means your dog will tire more quickly and be less capable than usual.

You should never try to treat anemia at home. It’s a severe condition of the blood that requires medical intervention. Unless you are a vet, then please make sure you take your canine companion to see a professional if you suspect anemia.

Bartonella From Fleas

In addition to anemia, your dog can contract other potentially deadly problems from fleas. Bartonella or Bartonellosis is commonly known (in humans) as ‘cat scratch disease.’ Surprisingly, kitty claws and bites very rarely transmit this common bacterium. Because this contagious disease can cause your dog an enlarged heart, liver, spleen, or brain, it is a serious concern.

Sadly, your dog can pass this disease to humans like you if they contract it from fleas or the bite of another infected dog. However, the good news is that your vet can prescribe antibiotics that are specifically designed to wipe out bacteria like Bartonella. Your doctor can do the same for humans.

Preventing Bartonella

The best way to prevent your dog from getting Bartonella is to make sure you stick to a flea and tick prevention regime. You can skip leg day at the gym, and it won’t kill you or your dog. The same cannot be said for skipping flea prevention.

Many people mistakenly believe that dogs are ‘safe’ from fleas in winter. It’s true that no flea, at any stage in its life cycle, can survive freezing temperatures for very long. However, fleas don’t live on the frozen ground. Their hosts have warm bodies that provide all the heat they need. Human homes and animals dens also make outstanding flea overwintering spaces.

It’s never worth risking your pet’s health, or your own. Keep them protected all year round. I’d advise choosing a long-lasting solution like the Seresto Flea and Tick Collar. Since it lasts up to eight months, you don’t need to remember to change it very often, which is useful. Plus, they work exceptionally well. To check prices and availability, click here

Fleas Can Cause Worms

There are five types of worms your dog can contract: Heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms. However, only one comes from fleas. The tapeworm isn’t the most common dog-worm, but it can be dangerous.

Tapeworm eggs are small enough to live inside a host parasite’s body. Larval fleas often ingest the microscopic eggs. If your dog swallows a flea that has worm eggs inside it, they will inevitably get worms as well. The specific variety is a nasty problem. They will appear first as squirmy ‘rice-grains’ in your dogs’ poop.

Unfortunately, the worms that don’t pass through their digestive tract hook on to the inside lining of your sweet pets’ small intestine. Once there, they grow up to several feet by absorbing the nutrients your dog needs to live and be healthy.

Get Rid of Worms From Fleas

It can take a very long time for your dog to die from the tapeworms they get from fleas. Regrettably, just like anemia, it will kill them if left unchecked and untreated.

I’m not a vet or licensed pet care specialist. Make sure you always consult with your vet before giving your dog any new product. However, if you live somewhere like southern Florida, where fleas are a virtually unavoidable problem year-round, home deworming might help.

Choose an outstanding option like Bayer Animal Health Quad Dewormer from Amazon. The chewable tablet form is easy to get your dog to eat, and it’s FDA approved for treating tapeworms and three other types. Pick some up for your pup by clicking here

Other Flea Problems

Most dogs who have fleas are never truly at risk of dying from them. It can happen, but it’s less common than other issues. Anemia, Bartonella, and Tapeworms can all be treated easily. However, the deadly problems aren’t the only problems with fleas.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD), isn’t deadly, but it will undoubtedly bring your dogs’ quality of life down. Dogs who are genuinely allergic to fleas have it much worse than the ‘regular’ itchy pups who have to deal with the biting pests. Even one or two bites can cause ongoing itches that last hours or days.

At its worst, FAD can cause a dog to tear at their own skin and fur until they have bald patches, scabs, and open wounds. Bacterial infections, hotspots, and overall misery are among the not-so-deadly flea issues for dogs with allergies.

You can help soothe your dogs’ FAD prone skin with ResQ Organics Pet Skin Treatment. The Manuka honey will also help prevent infection anywhere there’s an open wound from scratching or self-biting. Grab a container for your flea allergic dog by clicking here

How To Identify Fleas

Most fleas look more like flakes of black pepper than bugs to the naked eye. They can also appear brown, copper, or orange. At just one-eighth of an inch long when fully grown, fleas can be hard to spot.

Flea eggs are even harder to find because they’re a mere 1/64th of an inch they fall off your pets and come to rest in small spaces like between boards on the floor. The speck-eggs become virtually invisible once they get all over a grassy yard or into a carpet. Moreover, they have a tough outer shell that makes them very difficult to kill before they hatch.

How Many Fleas is an Infestation?

What qualifies as an infestation is a wrong question. If you can see a flea, there are more. Even one can become an infestation in days because of how fast they breed. Instead of focussing on how bad the infestation is, be more concerned with getting rid of the problem.

I prefer natural products, so I use Vets Best Flea & Tick Spray from Amazon, both as a preventative and a treatment for infestations. The plant-based formula is highly effective, unlike some I’ve tried in the past. You can find out more by clicking here

Fleas are Plague Carriers

Dogs aren’t the only ones at risk from fleas. In addition to potentially transmitting Bartonella through dogs to humans, fleas are known plague carriers. You can contract the Bubonic, Septicemic, or Pneumonic plagues from a direct bite of an infected flea.

Humans can also get the plague from handling dead animals who were infected or from inhaling it when infected animals, or people cough. Sickness occurs one to six days after you contract the initial infection.

Swollen and infected lymph nodes in the armpits, groin area, and neck are the first and most telling sign. You can reduce your risks by keeping fleas at bay. Similarly, you should minimize any potential breeding grounds for rodents and keep your pets away from them as well.

Final Thoughts

Any infestation is a problem. You should never simply, ‘let it go’ or wait to see if flea issues clear up. Fleas won’t go away on their own. At the first sign of a flea, you should take immediate action. Doing so will help prevent further complications.

When you prevent fleas and handle them quickly, you’re keeping your dog happy and healthy. Properly handled, most flea problems won’t harm your pet. Instead of worrying, take decisive action.

Use high-quality flea solutions to avoid having an ongoing issue. The longer they have fleas, the higher the chance your pets could have serious complications or even die from them.

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