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What infections can be caused by fleas and ticks?

Fleas and ticks are a common part of pet ownership. These parasites aren’t only a nuisance in their own right, but they can also have more significant consequences for your animal. This is because fleas and ticks can transmit diseases between their hosts, and some of these can make your pet sick.


Here are some of the most common infections and diseases that can be caused by fleas and ticks and, most importantly, how to prevent them.  



Tapeworms are an internal parasite that closely resemble long stretches of ribbon or tape. There are a variety of different types of tapeworms, and they can vary significantly in length and the host species that they can infect. The tapeworms that affect our animals can grow as long as 50cm, although they are made up of lots of small segments of around just 1cm each. They live in your pet’s small intestine and attach to the lining where they absorb nutrients directly from the gut. Tapeworms are highly infectious as eggs pass out into your pet’s feces. When another animal encounters the feces (as their curiosity means they inevitably do!) the eggs will pass into their body and infect them with tapeworms too. However, tapeworms can also be spread when infected fleas are accidentally ingested. It’s also worth noting that some types of tapeworms can infect humans too. They won’t necessarily make your pet particularly unwell, but they can cause an itchy bottom and tummy ache.


Fortunately, there are lots of preventatives that can help to protect against tapeworms. These are usually administered in the form of an oral medication taken every month. They must be administered on time to ensure total protection, as being a day or two late could leave your pet vulnerable to a tapeworm infection.  


Murine Typhus

Murine Typhus is a zoonotic disease that can be found in some areas of the United States. Typhus is caused by the rickettsia bacteria and can be spread by fleas. When an infected flea bites your pet, the bite breaks the skin and creates a wound. The feces of the fleas then pass into the wound, causing infection.


Typhus causes unpleasant symptoms like loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, fever, body pain and a rash. If it’s not treated, it can lead to severe illness and organ damage, which could prove very serious for your pet. Fortunately, using approved flea-control preventatives can keep you and your home free from fleas. There are lots of options available, including spot-on treatments, collars, shampoos, and oral medications, many of which protect against a range of parasites.


Lyme Disease

Lots of people have heard of Lyme Disease, but far fewer know that the condition is spread by ticks – more specifically, hard-shelled deer ticks. Ticks are slow-feeding parasites that live in woodland and long grasses and attach to animals and humans when they pass by. They feed on the blood slowly, and over the course of several days, they will pass any bacteria that they are carrying, including the borrelia burgdorferi that cause Lyme Disease into your pet’s body.


Lyme disease causes loss of appetite, fever, sensitivity to touch and breathing difficulties. Prompt removal of any ticks could prevent transmission of the disease, but we strongly advocate the use of tick preventatives. Like flea prevention, these are available in a variety of forms, from collars and oral medications to topical treatments. In fact, many preventatives will protect against most fleas and ticks at the same time.


Tick Paralysis

Tick paralysis isn’t actually caused by an infectious organism, but it’s important to mention since it is a very dangerous and potentially deadly problem. Tick paralysis occurs when an animal has a reaction to a neurotoxin that is found in some types of tick saliva, including that of the deer tick, lone star tick, American dog tick and Rocky Mountain wood tick. Symptoms include rapid heart rate, partial paralysis, poor reflexes and breathing problems. If the tick isn’t removed, tick paralysis can be fatal.


Again, using proper tick preventatives and ensuring that you administer them on time is the best way to keep your pet safe. Your vet in Port Isabel, TX will be able to advise you which preventative products will be best suited to your furry friend.



For more advice on flea and tick prevention, contact Port Isabel Animal Clinic in Port Isabel, Texas at (956) 943-6022 to make an appointment with our experienced veterinary team.

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