Health Blog

Six Common Illnesses Caused By Fleas and Ticks

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While some insects are mostly just a nuisance, others carry with them the possibility to make your life truly miserable. This is especially the case for pet owners, as without proper flea and tick protection, you might soon find your best friend fighting for its life due to one of these common flea- and tick-borne illnesses. Worse still, some of them can also be transmitted to humans.

Lyme Disease

By far the most common tick-borne illness, Lyme disease is caused by infectious borrelia bacteria. The disease typically mostly affects dogs, and those infected with Lyme disease often become suddenly lame. In some cases, the dog may simply lie around, refuse to eat and possibly develop a fever. The risk for the disease is quite high, which makes flea and tick protection a priority for any pet owner.

Typhus and Related Fevers

Both fleas and ticks can also carry various strains of rickettsiae bacteria, which can cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever, typhus, tick-bite fever, flea-borne spotted fever and other ailments. The majority of these related diseases are treatable, but they can still be quite serious.


Fleas are a major source of tapeworms. The worms often live inside fleas, which then spread reproductive tapeworm organs called proglottids through their feces. Both cats and dogs can easily ingest these when grooming, thus infecting them with tapeworms. In addition, there is also a small chance of young children also getting tapeworms in this way.

Parasitic Dermatitis

The skin of some pets is extra sensitive to certain chemicals found in flea and occasionally tick saliva, which cause large rashes and blisters to appear. Over time, it can eventually even lead to their hair falling off. More serious skin infections can also result, and in many cases, pets will need long-term antibiotic treatment to fully overcome all of the symptoms.

Cat-Scratch Fever

Not to be confused with the song by Ted Nugent, cat-scratch fever is something that affects humans when bitten or scratched by a cat infected with parasitic bartonella bacteria. These bacteria are transmitted by both flea and ticks bites and can affect cats, dogs, rodents and humans. Cats are generally most susceptible, especially in warmer, humid climates where more fleas and ticks are likely to be present.


One of the most serious of all tick-borne illnesses, meningoencephalitis can cause severe nervous system impairment and damage. The condition can result from a number of different tick-borne diseases, and the symptoms typically set in quite suddenly. These can include convulsions, fever and paralysis, and the condition can quickly turn fatal if not treated. However, if caught early enough, it can usually be successfully treated using antibiotics and medication to prevent the convulsions.

The easiest way to protect your pets and your family from all of these illnesses is to make sure you’re diligent. This means always remember to use flea collars, shampoos or anti-flea medications to help keep these pests off your pets. As well, you’ll also want to take the proper steps to keep fleas and ticks away from your home and property.