Cat Diseases From Fleas

Fleas cause many diseases that afflict cats. It is a wise and responsible pet owner who makes the effort to learn about these illnesses. When we're dealing with health issues we can neither afford to be ignorant nor misinformed. Being informed is a key to making the right choices and decisions for our pets, who are dependent on us.

Most of the time, simple medical conditions worsen because their early symptoms are not recognized. Here are some flea-caused diseases and their symptoms which can help owners determine if their cats need treatment.


Fleas are one of the underlying cause of this disease. It is a condition that can occur if too many fleas feed on the cat. The lessened number of red blood cells lead to a lack of iron. This in turn results to insufficient oxygen supply that the cells need for respiration.

The symptoms to look out for are:

  • Pale gums

  • Lethargy

  • Weakness

  • Increased breathing rate

  • Increased heart rate

It is advisable to immediately consult your vet if you suspect that your cat has this ailment. Vets can accurately identify the cause through blood sample analysis. Treatments will depend on the results of the test and may include oxygen therapy and blood transfusions.

Feline Infectious Anaemia (FIA)

This ailment is caused by Mycoplasma haemofelis, a species of the bacterial parasite Haemobartonella which attacks the cat's red blood cells. Infected mothers can pass on the organism to their kittens. FIA may also be transmitted through blood transfusion and cat fights. Fleas and ticks are also known to spread the disease. Once infected, a cat remains a carrier for life.

There are many factors to consider in determining if your cat has FIA. These are the number of infected red blood cells, degree of parasitic infection, and health of the cat. The varied symptoms can include:

  • Anaemia

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Depression

  • Jaundice

  • Fever

  • Enlarged lymph nodes

  • Enlarged spleen

Consultation with a vet is strongly recommended when the signs of the disease are present in your pet. Laboratory analysis of blood samples can aid to determine the treatment, which is long-term. For the anaemia symptom, antibiotics and iron supplements are usually prescribed.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)

This dermatologic disease is also known as flea bite hypersensitivity. Cats with this allergy react severely to saliva injected whenever fleas bite. It is a very itchy disease and can lead to secondary skin infections. FAD is most prevalent during summer and in places with warm climates.

Since the presence of fleas may not be apparent in cats with FAD due to excessive grooming, the symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Intense itching

  • Frequent biting of the skin especially at the tail, rump, back and front legs

  • Oozing wounds caused by chewing

  • Severe skin damage, especially the face and hips, due to excessive scratching

Vets should be consulted to treat the presence of fleas and to prevent secondary skin diseases. Since the best way for the allergy not to be triggered is to prevent the cat from being bitten by fleas, ask the vet to recommend the best flea preventive medications for your cat.

Abnormal Water Intake

One of the causes of this condition is the Dipylidium caninum, a segmented tapeworm that lives in the small intestines of cats. This parasite is common in environments that are flea infested because fleas, as intermediate hosts, enable the completion of the tapeworm's life cycle. Flea larvae, in turn, eat the eggs released from the segments which the tapeworms drop off in cat's feces. A cat, while grooming itself, gets this parasitic tapeworm when it ingests fleas.

Dipylidium caninum grows in the cat's intestines and feeds off the cat. The symptoms which signal its presence are:

  • Weight loss

  • Increased appetite

  • Anal irritation

As soon as this condition is noticed a vet must be consulted for immediate treatment. If you have more than one cat, they should also be included in the treatment even if they do not manifest the symptoms because the tapeworm can spread from cat to cat.

Alopecia or Abnormal Hair Loss

Cats lose hair when they are stressed and during lactation. It can also be caused by scratching due to the presence of fleas. However, hair loss may be aggravated by a skin disease called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), a severe reaction to flea bites. A cat with this allergy tends to excessively scratch and lick its skin which leads to hair loss in large parts of its body. Most affected are the flanks, tail and rump.

Cats suffering from Alopecia have:

  • Little or no hair in the affected areas

  • Blotchy, broken and painful skin

This condition is not life-threatening but it is still necessary to get a vet's diagnosis so the underlying cause can be determined. This is needed not only to ascertain the proper treatment for the cat but also to know what precautionary measures should be undertaken by the owner especially since some skin complaints may cross to humans.

Ensuring the safety of our cats from the threats that fleas pose should be one of our primary concerns. At the first sign of illness, it is best to see a vet. It is also essential that our pets have regular check-ups. Likewise, good hygiene practices and regular cleaning of surroundings must be observed to prevent flea infestation.