There are several different diseases that are linked to fleas. Most regions of the world have flea populations, and the insects are known to infest the bodies and bedding of dogs. If flea populations are not controlled, disease and infection can cause serious harm to your dog.
Many dog owners believe that fleas just cause a bit of itching but that is not the case. There are many diseases that a dog can actually suffer from that are directly related to having fleas. Diseases that your dog can contract from fleas include internal parasites, tularemia, flea allergy dermatitis, and haemobartonellosis. While not all dogs will get those diseases from fleas, many will suffer from flea infestations.
Flea-borne diseases cause different but sometimes overlapping symptoms. Flea allergy dermatitis is perhaps the most common disease that affects dogs; it is an allergic reaction to the saliva of the flea results in extreme itchiness, swelling, and respiratory distress. There are two different internal parasites that dogs can get from fleas. Tapeworms are the most common, and evidence of those worms can be found in the fecal matter of an infected dog. There is another worm that affects the dog less frequently known as dipetalonema reconditum, which is a worm that lives under the skin of the dog and can cause extreme itchiness. Tularemia is a disease that causes fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, and lethargy in dogs. It is not a common infection but can be devastating when it is present in a dog of any age. Haemobartonellosis is transmitted by both fleas and ticks. The disease causes a dog to become anemic and may also cause it to lose weight due to a lack of appetite. Cats can also suffer from this disease.
Although a dog owner may use the above symptoms to determine if the dog is sick, identifying these diseases is best left up to a veterinarian. Because the symptoms of each of these flea-borne diseases can mimic one another it's important to have a qualified vet do a physical exam an any necessary laboratory tests to determine what is really going on with the dog.
Any of these diseases, left untreated, puts the dog at risk of suffering needlessly. All can be treated with proper medication, restoring the dog to its previous healthy state. Untreated fever in the case of tularemia can lead to further health problems if left untreated, and in some cases even death.
The significance of these diseases is that they can affect any dog at any time, but they don't have to. There are oral and topical preventative medications that work to kill adult fleas and keep flea eggs from hatching. When you break a flea infestation's life cycle, you limit a dog's exposure to diseases carried by fleas.