Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fleas Can Be Deadly

Kilo - "I'm not feeling well."
Fleas are not just pesky little blood suckers that make you itch. They can carry diseases and infect our pets with them -- things like tapeworms and Mycoplasma haemofelis and Mycoplasma haemocanis. These are diseases I have experienced with my own pets over the years. Mycoplasma causes anemia and if left untreated can cause death.

Just recently our 1-1/2 year old cat Kilo starting acting lethargic and didn't have his normal appetite. After taking him to the vet for an exam, nothing was found. It wasn't until we got an x-ray and bloodwork done that it was revealed that his spleen was inflamed and he was suffering from severe anemia -- on the borderline of needing a blood transfusion -- from Mycoplasma haemofelis (formerly known as Haemobartonella felis). Mycoplasma haemofelis attacks the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout a cat’s body.
Kilo

Even though Kilo gets his monthly flea treatments (especially since he is an inside/outside cat and we live in the Houston area), he managed to contract this flea (or tick) carrying disease. We comb him often and have never found any ticks on him. Could it have been due to the fact that the flea treatment I had been using on him (Revolution), seemed to have stopped working recently so I had to switch to something different (Advantage)? 

I really don't like putting chemicals on my animals at all, but the risk of them getting a disease like this (not to mention just fleas in general, which can cause allergic reactions in some pets) if I don't use some type of flea and tick control that works, is too great. Here in Houston, where it's hot and humid 9 to 10 months out of the year, is the perfect environment for fleas and mosquitoes. I wish there was a natural, safer flea treatment that really works but I just haven't found one yet. (Not that I haven't tried!)

Kilo is recovering nicely, feeling a little better every day while being treated with antibiotics, steroids and vitamin B12 (and lots of love!). After ten days he will get a blood test again to confirm he no longer has the Mycoplasma.


Ellie (1998 - 2013)
In 2011, our Australian Shepherd Ellie, who was 13 at the time, had to receive a blood transfusion after collapsing from what turned out to be immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, which was caused by Mycoplasma haemocanis, the same disease as Kilo got, only the canine version. We hadn't found any ticks on Ellie either, so we had to assume it was from a flea, even though she was treated with monthly flea and tick prevention. Ellie was at a disadvantage though, as she didn't have a spleen to help her deal with the Mycoplasma. She had her spleen removed a year prior due to a tumor that had ruptured. She was treated and recovered nicely. I wrote about her ordeal here.

In 2008 my husband rescued a tiny six week old kitten (now our 9 year old Dusty) from
Dusty
getting run over on a busy street, only to have him pass out in my arms a short time after getting him home. He was so covered in fleas that they caused him to become anemic and he had to have a blood transfusion to save his life -- again. The fleas literally sucked the life out of his tiny body. 


So can fleas be deadly? They certainly can! This is why it's so important we protect our pets against these pests.