There are few creatures on earth that have had as much impact on world history as the lowly flea. From the Black Death during the 14th century to the present, fleas have been the cause of much torment. Not only do they make your cat itch, they also can cause significant health problems. Flea disease facts Fleas do more than just cause skin irritation. When fleas bite, they inject a small amount of saliva into
the skin. Some cats are allergic
to this saliva and will mount an
exuberant inflammatory response
known as flea allergic dermatitis,
which is the most common skin
disease in veterinary medicine.
Cats with flea allergic dermatitis
are uncomfortably itchy.
Fleas ingest blood. While the
amount they consume is tiny, if
you multiply this by many fleas,
and you don’t have a lot of blood
to begin with (you’re a kitten, for
example), cats can become anemic
due to blood loss. I’ve had a few
cases where severely infested kittens required a blood transfusion
Fleas transmit tapeworms to
cats. The tapeworm life cycle
involves passing through the flea’s
body. Cats are fastidious groomers.
Occasionally, they swallow a flea
when grooming, and if that particular flea is infected with tapeworm
Diseases in Cats
THE VET IS IN
BY GUEST COLUMNIST ARNOLD PLOTNICK, D.V.M.
To understand the flea, it’s helpful to know its life cycle. Contrary
to popular belief, fleas don’t jump
from one cat to another. Once a flea
jumps on a cat, it stays there for its
entire life. The rest of the life cycle,
however, is spent off the cat.
When a female flea jumps on
a cat, it bites the skin and begins
feeding immediately. Ingestion of
blood is required for the flea to
reproduce. Within 24 hours, the
flea begins laying about 50
eggs per day. As the cat
meanders, he acts like a
living saltshaker, scattering
flea eggs throughout the
house, mainly in the
areas where he sleeps
or rests. Within a
week, larvae hatch
from the eggs.
The larvae burrow
into carpets and
cracks in hard-
to avoid light. Five to 12 days
later, the larvae spin a cocoon in
which they develop into pupae.
Baby fleas emerge from the pupae
within one to three weeks. These
newly hatched fleas wait for a cat
to stroll by, and they hop on. The
life cycle begins anew.
It’s a myth that cats who spend
their entire lives indoors are safe
from fleas. Fleas are opportunistic
hitchhikers — they jump onto
our clothing, and we bring
them back home where
they hop onto our cats
and start their life cycle.
DID YOU KNOW?
Meaning, they are
more closely related
to spiders &