June 05, 2020 4 min read

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Did you just find a flea on your dog?  These unwanted little bugs can cause many health problems for your dog.  By keeping your dog on monthly flea and tick medication, you can help keep these bugs away and keep your dog healthy and safe. 

Where can a dog catch fleas?

There are many places that your dog can catch fleas.  Fleas can actually jump very long distances.  They will usually come from any wooded or tall grassy area. Places like dog parks and other public areas are a common location that your dog could get fleas.  Most of these areas are routinely sprayed for pests, but due to the strong nature of flea composition and their reach, they can pop up almost anywhere.

Fleas can spread from one dog to another dog and human to human.  It is important to keep any dog that has fleas isolated from other pets to help prevent spreading these bugs throughout your household.  

What diseases can fleas give dogs?

These are common diseases that vets seen in dogs from fleas.  Many times, just one flea can cause these problems, but sometimes, your dog would have to have a lot of fleas to see any issues.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Many dogs are highly allergic to flea bites.  When a flea’s saliva reacts with your dog’s skin, it will cause an allergic reaction.   This intense skin irritation will cause your dog to itch and chew at their skin and fur.  This will cause your dog’s hair to fall out.  This usually leads to a skin infection.  These symptoms and irritation continue until the fleas are eliminated. 

If your dog has flea allergy dermatitis, you will need to take them to see your vet.  They can get your dog started on medication to treat the skin infection and to stop your dog from itching.  Many times, you will need to give your dog flea medication as well as treat their environment for fleas.


If a dog swallows a flea when they are chewing at an irritated area of their skin, they can easily eat a flea.  If these fleas are infected with a tapeworm, your dog will then have a tapeworm.  Tapeworms can attach to the intestinal lining of your dog’s intestines.  In this area, they will begin to breed.  These tapeworms will continue to multiply inside your dog. 

Tapeworms will compete with your dog for food, causing your dog to be thin and have trouble gaining weight.  They can also lead to other problems too.  You will see segments these little worms pass out in your dog’s stool or around their anus.  They will look like a grain of rice. 

If you notice any of these little grains of rice in your dog’s stool, it is best to take your dog to a vet.  They can get your dog started on mediations for the fleas and the tapeworms that your dog has.  Tapeworms cannot be transmitted from one dog to another as you have to eat a flea to get tapeworms.


Anemia is the medical term for a low red blood cell count. This is a very serious condition in dogs and humans, which requires medical attention to manage. When your dog has a flea infestation, they get food from biting your dog and drinking their blood.  If your dog has a lot of fleas, they can drink enough blood to cause your dog to become anemic.  This is commonly seen in very little puppies or kittens. 

Symptoms of anemia include weakness, lethargy, rapid breathing, and even death if not properly treated. Your vet will take a small blood sample to see how much blood your dog has.  If they have a very low amount of red blood cells, they will give your dog a blood transfusion. This is done very similarly to people.  This will help replace your dog’s blood.  They will also give your dog medication to get rid of the fleas.  After a few days, your dog’s body will be able to replace the lost blood.


Bartonellosis is not 100% known to be connected to fleas, but research suggests there is a correlation. Bartonellosis is caused by gram-negative bacteria that is carried by fleas.  This spreads by direct blood to blood contact.  So, when the flea bites your dog, they can easily transmit these bacteria to your dog or cat.

This can cause fever, nausea, loss of appetite, irregular heartbeat, vomiting and diarrhea, joint pain, and altered brain function. It must be treated quickly to avoid further complications.

Your vet will want to run blood work on your dog.  This will help them determine if your dog has an infection.  They will then start them on antibiotics for this infection.  Many times, it may take 4 to 6 weeks of antibiotics to clear this infection. 

 What to do If I see Fleas on my dog?

If you are noticing fleas on your dog, the best thing to do is to give your dog a bath. This will help remove any fleas that are currently on your dog.  After bath time, clean your pet’s bed, blankets, and vacuum any area that they spend a lot of time in.  This will help decrease any other fleas or eggs that can re-infect your dog.  Talk to your vet about flea and tick prevention, and they can get you a medication to help keep fleas and ticks off of your dog. 

By controlling the flea population on your dog, you can help keep your dog healthy and happy.  Fleas are not only a nuisance to your dog; they can also carry many diseases and cause your dog to be sick.  Working with your vet, you can keep the fleas away and your dog happy and healthy. 


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Meet The Author

Dr. Sara Ochoa author of What diseases can ticks carry

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM

Since she was a little girl, she knew that her dream was to become a veterinarian. With a tremendous passion and love for animals that makes her a great source of knowledge for others. She lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies Ruby the Schnoodle, and Bam-Bam the bunny.