Flea Anemia in Cats

Flea anemia in cats is a serious problem pet owners often overlook. While a healthy, young adult cat may not have issues with fleas, kittens and elderly cats quickly become anemic. In addition, there is a risk of tapeworm infestations due to the fleas.

Understanding the Life Cycle of a Flea

Fleas progress through stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. They thrive in warm, humid environments, but in cooler conditions they can still survive. Adult fleas are the fleas you see on your cat. They feast on your cat's blood while laying up to 30 eggs per day. Those eggs fall onto the ground where they'll hatch into a larva between five days and three weeks later.

Once the larva develops enough, it spins a cocoon and turns into a pupa. The adult flea will hatch anywhere from a few days to months later. The warmer the climate and the higher the humidity, the faster fleas develop. As newly hatched adults, the fleas will jump onto their host and proceed to carry on the fleas' life cycle leading to the possibility of flea anemia.

Symptoms of Flea Anemia

Kittens and cats with flea anemia lack color in their gums. Press down on the gums of the cat, if it remains white for a while, anemia is likely so you should rush your feline to the veterinarian.

Other signs include:

  • Dull fur

  • Lethargy

  • Sunken eyes

  • Weight loss

Dangers of Flea Anemia in Kittens and Elderly Cats

One female flea eats 15 times her weight in blood every day. If your elderly cat or kitten is host to hundreds of fleas, that's a lot of blood loss. Many experts believe that flea anemia is the leading cause of death in kittens. Newborns and young kittens rely on their mother for grooming, and she's busy with their litter mates. Because they cannot remove the fleas by themselves, the fleas go to town feasting on their blood quickly draining their already low supply.

Ridding an Elderly Cat or Kitten of Flea Infestations

Flea preventatives and medications usually advise against use on elderly cats or kittens, it can be hard for pet owners to find a suitable treatment for flea infestations.

Wash your pet with a dish soap, Dawn seems particularly effective, and leave the suds on for a few minutes. Any fleas that rush towards the nose, eyes or ears can be picked off with your finger nails or blunt tweezers. You may need to wear gloves to prevent scratches, though some pets seem to realize you're trying to help and tolerate the bath.

Rinse the pet well and wrap him in a warm towel. As you dry him off, use a flea comb to remove any fleas that escaped the bath. Run a flea comb over the cat daily to catch any new hatchlings. You may need to repeat the bath every few days, but within a couple weeks, the fleas will disappear.

While you are bathing your pet, have someone else sprinkle your carpeting with Borax, available in the laundry detergent aisle, or diatomaceous earth. Let the powder sit for ten minutes and then vacuum thoroughly. These two substances seem to kill flea eggs and larva.