The Dangers of Flea Bites for You and Your Pet

Corgi laying on stomach while owner puts flea medicine on its back


Flea bites are itchy and obnoxious — but what can you do? If you have pets, you have to deal with fleas. Right? After all, how dangerous are fleas, anyway? Aren’t they a small, irritating price to pay for the company of our beloved pets? Unfortunately, flea bites can cause more serious problems than you might think. For both you and your pet(s).

For those who are sensitive to them, flea bites can range from irritating to maddening for animals and people. They can also pose serious health issues for your pets, family, and you. The dangers of flea bites go well beyond skin deep. Let’s take a closer look at the dangers of flea bites and the best protection for you and your pets.

The Most Common Flea-Borne Diseases and Illnesses

While most flea bites are simply irritating, there are several dangers of flea bites that can be far more severe for people and animals. Let’s first explore what happens if a flea bites you. Then, we’ll dive into the most common flea-borne diseases and symptoms.

So, what happens if a flea bites you? When fleas bite, they are essentially taking a blood meal, and as they do, they inject a small amount of saliva into the skin. The saliva contains specific proteins that can trigger an allergic reaction in some people and pets. The bite swells, and the immediate area around the flea bite can become itchy and inflamed.

But fleas don’t just bite once and go on their way. They can bite multiple times, especially if they are disturbed while feeding. A flea bite rash occurs when a flea bites several times in close proximity, making the itchy inflammation worse, even for those who are not allergic.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

The most common flea-borne disease is flea allergy dermatitis. This is an immunologic disease caused by an allergy to the fleas’ saliva and is both a common and serious danger of flea bites. Symptoms of flea allergy dermatitis can be severe and include:

  • Intense itching all over the body
  • Red, oozing lesions called hot spots
  • Skin inflammation
  • Hair loss
  • Painful scabs

Dogs and cats afflicted with flea allergy dermatitis are driven to scratch, lick, chew, and bite at their itchy skin, even tugging out tufts of fur to relieve the itching and discomfort. Frustratingly, the only effective treatment for this flea-borne disease is to completely eliminate the flea bites by removing the biters from your pet, your home, and your yard.

There is no vaccine or treatment to make a person or pet less allergic to flea bites. Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) is a condition that describes pets who experience extreme allergic reactions to the saliva in flea bites, but people can also be allergic to flea saliva.

Humans who are allergic to flea bites experience intense itching, swelling, and redness at the bite site. In severe cases, the reaction can be more widespread. The itching can be so extreme that it can disturb sleep for many consecutive nights and impair daily activities. Scratching the itchy flea bites can lead to broken skin, which then becomes vulnerable to secondary bacterial infections.


Thus far, we have focused on the dangers of flea bites themselves. Because some people and animals are allergic to flea saliva, any bite can harm their health. But what if the flea is infected? That pathogen, too, enters the wound along with the saliva. So, each new host, whether a person or pet, can be infected with whatever disease or bacteria the flea carries.

Unfortunately, fleas are often infected by Bartonella bacteria and can spread the infection to the animals they bite. In dogs and especially cats, Bartonella is associated with severe conditions, including heart disease, eye inflammation, and seizures. Treatment requires extensive use of antibiotics over an extended period of time.

Bartonella is also one of the dangers of flea bites to humans. If an infected flea bites a cat, the bacteria replicate in the cat’s bloodstream. When the cat scratches, it can get the bacteria on its claws. If it then scratches or bites a human, that person may contract cat scratch fever. While a fairly uncommon flea infection, its symptoms range from problematic to devastating, including the following:

  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Exhaustion
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Serious eye infection
  • Swelling of the brain (encephalitis)


Tapeworms are another common danger of flea bites. As dogs and cats lick and groom the site of irritating flea bites, they may ingest a flea. If the flea has ingested tapeworm eggs, the eggs can pass into your pet’s digestive system. That can result in a tapeworm developing in your pet’s intestines. The worm’s sucker-like mouth hooks into the intestinal walls, where it continues to eat and grow.

Tapeworm symptoms in pets include the following:

  • Weight loss, even with normal food intake
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dull coat
  • Itchy anus, leading to pets “scooting” along on their rear

It is possible, though rare, for humans to be infected by a tapeworm.

Additional Threats to Your Pet From Flea Bites

Close up of dog skin and dermatitis from flea bites.

Fortunately, the possible dangers of flea infections described above don’t happen with every flea bite unless you’re allergic to the flea saliva. However, in addition to itching and irritation, there is an additional threat to your pet and family that occurs with every bite: anemia.


Anemia is one of the dangers of flea bites that affects people as well as pets. Every time a flea bites, it drinks blood. While no single bite drains a significant volume of blood, each bite adds up.

Generally, healthy people and pets affected by flea bite anemia will just feel fatigued and lethargic for a while. However, older, sick, or infirm people or pets are at a greater risk of anemia when bitten by fleas over an extended period of time.

How Can You Prevent Fleas?

The only way to completely avoid the dangers of flea bites is to entirely eliminate fleas from your property, pets, and home. Preventing flea bites on your pet is far easier than eradicating a flea infestation, but it takes effort. Let’s see what you can do to prevent fleas from infesting your pets, home, and yard.

Preventing Fleas on Your Pet

Close up of dog skin and dermatitis from flea bites.


The first place to prevent fleas is directly on your pet, the most susceptible host to the nasty biters. These are the best ways to protect your pet from the dangers of flea bites:

  • Consider using flea collars as part of a multi-pronged flea prevention approach.
  • Look into monthly, topical flea treatments that can kill adult fleas and eggs.
  • Prevent your pets from spending time in flea-infested locations, including your yard. If they do spend a lot of time outdoors, schedule a barrier treatment to effectively reduce the risk of flea and tick bites.
  • Limit the access wildlife has to your property where your pets spend time.
  • Brush pets regularly using a flea comb.
  • Use a topical flea spray to kill fleas removed by the comb or for spot treatments where your pet scratches.
  • Bathe pets regularly using flea shampoo. (Check your pets’ sensitivity to specific products, as some pets react adversely to certain shampoo ingredients.

Preventing Fleas in Your Home

Preventing fleas in your home largely depends upon keeping them off your pets and your property. However, once a single flea enters your home, you’re likely to get many more. The following care will help keep fleas out of your home:

  • Sweep and vacuum frequently and well. Vacuum carpets, rugs, and sofa cushions. Empty the vacuum outdoors so living fleas and viable eggs don’t get back in.
  • For serious flea infestations, steam-clean carpets to kill adult fleas and their eggs.
  • Wash the bedding, yours and your pet’s, frequently.

Preventing Fleas on Your Property

Avoiding the dangers of flea bites relies most heavily on keeping fleas off your property and away from your pets. The following steps will help keep your property free from biters:

  • Mow your grass frequently.
  • Avoid over-watering your lawn and landscaping.
  • Fix any irrigation leaks and leaky faucets.
  • Treat dog houses or dog runs with insecticide for fleas.
  • Keep weeds, fallen leaves, and garden litter off your property.
  • Keep wildlife away from your property.
  • Do not store food outdoors.
  • Keep tight lids on trash cans.
  • Regularly schedule professional flea control treatments.

Environmental Flea Control

Dog scratching itself from flea bites

Sometimes, environmental flea control is essential to stop potentially harmful flea bites.

While the most effective flea control is one that cuts off fleas’ access to your pets, this isn’t always practical. Some pets are sensitive to flea collars and topical flea treatments. Meanwhile, even once you kill the adult fleas that bite your pet, more trouble could be lurking. Eggs and immature fleas in your home and on your property can take months to mature to the blood-sucking stage. Ugh! So, environmental flea control measures become critical.

Some beneficial nematodes, specifically Steinernema Carpocapsae nematodes (SC), kill flea larvae on your property. The nematodes are microscopic living creatures that need moisture to live. First, water the soil of your grass, garden, and shrubs. Apply the nematodes in the early morning or late afternoon, then water again. It will take several weeks to see the results. Reapply in eight weeks.

There are also flea sprays you can use to treat your pets’ outdoor bedding, patio cushions, and dog runs or kennels. Some work for treating the grass, shrubs, and other vegetation where fleas like to hide. Many of the most effective flea sprays on the market are derived from plants.

Professional flea control to treat your property is another approach to environmental flea control. Your service professional comes to your home armed with the tools to kill adult fleas and their eggs. They target all the spots where fleas like to hide, treating your plants, dog runs, kennels, and any place where fleas are prone to shelter.

Often, the best way to eliminate flea bites is through a comprehensive approach. Topical dog flea bite treatments, together with home hygiene and an environmental flea control like Mosquito Joe®, can help you tame an infestation.

Contact Mosquito Joe® for Effective Flea Control

While fleas and the dangers of flea bites are common problems for pets and their parents, you don’t have to fight them alone! Mosquito Joe makes the outdoors fun again for both you and your pets by controlling nasty biters like mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks.

Our service professionals arrive promptly, in uniform, and driving a marked van. They have all the equipment and expertise required to effectively keep fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes away from your property. And all of our work is backed by the Neighborly Done Right Promise™, which ensures your satisfaction.

Our barrier treatment sprays are effective at seeking out pests where they hide, live, and breed. Not only can we make your yard and garden enjoyable again for you and your pets, but we also provide tips and advice on how to protect you, your family, your pets, and your property from annoying biters.

To learn more or to get started, contact Mosquito Joe nearest you today to help make flea bites a thing of the past.