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4 Common Flea Diseases in Dogs

Fleas and their bites can irritate your dog, spread diseases and lead to a variety of health concerns. Discover more about how fleas can make your dog sick – and how you can help stop them.

Can fleas make dogs sick?

Fleas are parasites that can spread a number of diseases to your dog, including:

  • Flea allergy dermatitis
  • Tapeworms
  • Anemia
  • Bartonellosis

Golden retriever licking its nose and scratching its body in the grass.

1. Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Many dogs suffer from flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), an allergic condition caused by flea bites. In fact, flea allergy dermatitis is one of the most common reasons pet owners take their dogs to the veterinarian.

Flea bites can trigger an immune response in your dog with symptoms that include:

  • Intense skin irritation and itchiness that extends beyond the location of the bites
  • Hair loss
  • Skin infections

Dogs with FAD will continue to experience these symptoms until the fleas are controlled.

2. Tapeworms

Dogs can swallow fleas while chewing at irritated skin from flea bites or from licking or grooming their fur. If those ingested fleas are infected with tapeworms, the dog could become infected as well. Once in the digestive system, the tapeworms will attach themselves to the intestinal lining using their sucker-like mouthparts.

If your dog is infected with tapeworms, you may see pieces of the worms around your dog’s backside. These pieces, which look like grains of white rice, are packets of tapeworm eggs. If you look closely, you might even see them moving. Once the outer casing of these packets dries out, the eggs are released into the environment for developing fleas to ingest.

3. Anemia

Because of their rapid reproductive rate, one flea on your dog can quickly turn into hundreds. If a large number of fleas bite and feed, your dog can develop anemia, or low red blood cells. This serious medical condition must be promptly addressed through veterinary care, especially in puppies.

Symptoms of anemia include weakness, lethargy, rapid breathing and potentially death if the fleas are not killed. With severe infestations, treat the home and surrounding outdoor areas for fleas as well as the pet to help eliminate the fleas in your entire environment.

4. Bartonellosis

There’s increasing evidence that dogs can be infected with a bacteria called bartonella, which can cause bartonellosis. While the source of infection is not as clear in dogs as in cats, bartonella bacteria infections in dogs have been linked to fleas.

Bartonellosis can cause a number of symptoms in dogs, including fever, nausea or loss of appetite, an irregular heartbeat, vomiting and diarrhea, joint pain or altered brain functions. However, affected dogs typically do not show any clinical signs.

Icon of topical flea treatment for dogs.Icon of flea collar for dogs.

How to Help Protect Your Dog from Fleas

Fleas can be found almost anywhere, which makes it difficult to avoid them. Routinely treating your dog with an effective flea preventive can help protect them from fleas before an infestation has the chance to begin. Choose a product that kills fleas through contact, so fleas do not have to bite your dog before the treatment takes effect.

Related articles:
How to Help Get Rid of Fleas on Your Dog
Flea Life Cycle & Dogs
Compare Types of Flea Products

Bayer Products

  • Seresto® for large dogs packaging

    Seresto® for dogs

    An easy-to-use, odorless, non-greasy collar that kills and repels fleas and ticks for 8 months.

    Seresto® for dogs

    Indicated for:

    FLEAS
    FLEAS
    TICKS
    TICKS
    CHEWING LICE
    CHEWING LICE

  • Advantage® II for large dogs packaging.

    Advantage® II for dogs

    A convenient, monthly topical application that kills fleas through contact.

    Advantage® II for dogs

    Indicated for:

    FLEAS
    FLEAS
    CHEWING LICE
    CHEWING LICE

  • Advantage Carpet Upholstery Spot Spray

    Advantage® Carpet & Upholstery Spot Spray

    Help control an infestation in your home by killing fleas, brown dog ticks, dust mites and bed bugs.

    Not for use on pets. Use as directed.

    Advantage® Carpet & Upholstery Spot Spray

    Indicated for:

    FLEAS
    FLEAS
    BROWN DOG TICKS
    BROWN DOG TICKS
    DUST MITES
    DUST MITES
    BED BUGS
    BED BUGS