When these pests leave their mark on your pet, it may cause more than a minor irritation. They carry Lyme disease, rabbit fever… and even the plague! We’ve got fleas and ticks to thank for spreading these diseases.

When it comes to keeping your pet healthy, you probably understand the importance of taking your pet to the vet once or twice a year. You may also know that feeding your pet a healthy diet will help to keep him healthy as well. But what about pest control? Many pet owners overlook the importance of flea and tick prevention, as they don’t realize that these pests can actually transmit some serious diseases.

Common Tick-Borne Diseases


The most common tick-borne disease in the United States is Lyme disease. This disease can produce symptoms including fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. If left untreated, Lyme disease sometimes lead to severe kidney disease. Another disease carried and spread by ticks is American canine hepatozoonosis (ACH). This disease is caused by the ingestion of a tick – that’s right; it isn’t caused by tick bites! ACH can lead to a severe, sometimes fatal infection, which produces symptoms like high fever, stiffness, pain, weight loss, and muscle wasting. Even if your dog recovers, he may still require treatment for several years after.

A common tick-borne disease found in cats is called cytauxzoonosis, and symptoms may include depression, anemia, high fever, jaundice, and difficulty breathing. Unfortunately, treatments are largely ineffective and death can occur as little as seven days after contraction. Another dangerous tick-borne disease is tularemia, sometimes called rabbit fever. This disease affects cats more than dogs and it can lead to depression, loss of appetite, and mild fever in dogs or high fever, swollen lymph nodes and abscesses in cats. There is no vaccine for this disease but it can be treated with antibiotics.

Diseases Spread by Fleas


One of the most common problems caused by fleas is called flea allergy dermatitis. Flea bites can cause irritation and swelling at the site of the bite but, in cases of flea allergy dermatitis, the reaction is much stronger. This condition is caused by an allergic reaction to the flea’s saliva, not just to the bite itself. Symptoms may include hot spots and extreme itching. Another potential problem caused by fleas is called cat scratch disease. About 40 percent of cats will carry this disease at some point in their lives and it is transmitted from one cat to another by fleas. Cat scratch disease generally doesn’t harm the cat but it can cause fatigue, headaches, and fever in humans.


Another disease spread by fleas is the plague. This is the same disease that killed roughly 30 percent of the European population during the Middle Ages and it can still affect pets today, though it is uncommon in humans. This disease can cause fever, swollen lymph nodes, and even sudden death. In addition to carrying the plague, fleas can also carry tapeworms. If your dog ingests a flea that is carrying tapeworms he can become infected and may experience symptoms of weight loss, irritation, and vomiting.

Flea and Tick Prevention


As you now know, fleas and ticks can spread some dangerous diseases. Fortunately, flea and tick prevention is actually fairly simple. Treating your dog or cat with a topical flea and tick preventive every month is generally enough to keep these pests at bay. Keep in mind that fleas and ticks can affect your dog at any time of year, even during the winter when you might think that this is not the case. The key to protecting your pet against dangerous diseases is to be consistent about your flea and tick prevention methods. Stay up to date with topical preventives and have your dog checked for ticks and fleas at his routine vet visits. If you suspect a problem with fleas or ticks, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor’s degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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