Cat Diseases from Fleas

Cat diseases may be caused by various infectious agents, including fleas. Fleas are not only parasites that cause discomfort in pets, but are also carriers of diseases such as Bartonella, typhus or apedermatitis. Fleas may also cause a tapeworm infestation when ingested.

Bartonella Infection

Bartonella are bacteria that may be carried by fleas or mosquitoes. The bacteria are not only dangerous for the felines, but may also infect humans. The bacteria are transmitted through the bite from fleas, which are carriers of the pathogen. The bacteria will develop in the cat's blood and will multiply. The treatment of bartonella infection will consist of antibiotics such as tetracycline, penicillin, amoxicillin or gentamicin. The treatment of felines with a weak immune system will differ, as the efficiency of antibiotics is questionable in these patients.

Murine Typhus

There two main types of typhus:

  • Murine, transmitted by fleas
  • Epidemic, transmitted by lice

The murine typhus is caused by bacteria (Rickettsia typhi) that may be carried by fleas. Most commonly, the fleas will infect rats, but cats can also catch it. Murine typhus is less common in felines, because the cat fleas are less likely to carry the typhus-causing bacteria. However, the infection is possible. Cats may be great hosts for the bacteria, which can affect humans as well.

The disease will manifest through elevated fever, nausea, dry coughing and vomiting. The symptoms may often be mistaken for Lyme disease or another medical condition, so the cat needs diagnosis. The treatment will consist of antibiotics such as tetracycline and is typically successful. However, cats with a compromised immune system may have complications and in rare cases, death may occur.

Tapeworm Infection

Fleas are known to carry tapeworm larvae and may be infectious agents in cats. However, the only means of infection is if the cat ingests the fleas that carry larvae. This may happen accidentally, especially when the cat is biting his skin, due to the itchiness caused by fleas. The tapeworm infection will manifest through:

  • Weight loss
  • Poor skin and coat condition, as the worm will feed on the cat's nutrients, depriving him of these
  • Diarrhea
  • Visible worm segments in the feces
  • Blood or mucus in the feces
  • Moving worm in the mouth or anal area of the pet, especially when he is not active

Some pets may not present any symptoms. However, the tapeworm can be eliminated with deworming treatment. It's important to repeat the treatment, to ensure that no larvae are left behind. Treating the cat for fleas is also important, to prevent the recurrence of the tapeworm.

Lyme Disease

Fleas may be carriers of Borrelia burgdorferi, which is known to cause Lyme disease. While there is still need for additional research to confirm the link between fleas and Lyme disease, it's important that you are aware of the potential danger of infestation with it.