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Fleas are a health risk to both pets and their owners

Fleas can bite humans as well as their dog and cat hosts and they may transmit infections such as:

  • The flea tape-worm (Dipylidium caninum)
  • Cat scratch fever (Bartonellosis) – may cause fever, headache, fatigue and poor appetite in humans
  • Rickettsia felis – causing fever, headache, muscle pain and rash in humans
  • Mycoplasma haemofelis and Mycoplasma haemominutum (Feline Infectious Anaemia) - associated with loss of appetite, dehydration, depression, anaemia, jaundice and death in extreme cases.

Flea tapeworm

dog skin

FAD in a dog

Ticks are risky too…for both pets and humans…

Tick borne diseases in Ireland and the UK include mainly Lyme disease but other infections may also be brought in via infected ticks from other European countries. Let’s have a closer look….

  • Lyme disease (Borreliosis), a bacterial disease of dogs, cats, horses and people - a growing problem in Ireland and the UK
    • In dogs it may cause lameness, fever, anorexia, lethargy, swollen joints and rarely kidney failure
    • In humans it can cause fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans or "Bull's eye rash" around the tick bite (see picture). If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Not all Ixodes ticks will carry the bacteria responsible for the disease but an increasing number of human cases are being diagnosed in Ireland each year. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), Ireland, states that although the true incidence of Lyme disease is not known, it is likely that there are at least 50 - 100 cases in Ireland every year. Further information on Lyme Disease may be found be clicking on the information sheets from the HSE ( or HPSC ( respectively. Important to note is the advice on control which includes the importance of control of ticks on pets as part of any preventive strategy.
      Human skin
  • Babesiosis, caused by a microscopic parasite that invades red blood cells has also been shown to be carried by ticks. The disease can manifest with high temperature, increased respiratory rate, muscle tremors, anaemia, jaundice, and weight loss and may be fatal.
  • Cat scratch fever- may also be transmitted by ticks. Signs are as mentioned in flea section above.
  • Feline infectious anaemia (Haemobartonellosis)- caused by Mycoplasma felis and Mycoplasma haemominutum (less commonly) which target the oxygen carrying, red blood cells. Fleas and ticks become infected with these Mycoplasma spp. by feeding on an infected animal. When the flea or tick then feeds on another animal, the Mycoplasmas are passed on. As they live in red blood cells, they may be spread via a blood transfusion from an infected animal to a non-infected one. In the cat, the Mycoplasmas may also be spread from the queen (mother cat) to her kittens and through cat bites - male cats, cats that roam, and cats less than 4-6 years of age appear to be at higher risk of becoming infected. The clinical signs of disease may vary from mild to severe and include, depression, anorexia, dehydration, jaundice, anaemia and death.

Other Tick borne diseases occurring in Europe and other continents include:

  • Canine Monocytic Ehrlichiosis, a rickettsial disease also known as Tropical Canine Pancytopaenia and is caused by the bacteria Ehrlichia canis. It has three distinct stages of disease, acute, subclinical and chronic and clinical signs include lethargy, fever, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, anorexia, low platelet counts, skin haemorrhages, neurological signs and death.
  • Anaplasmosis is a potentially zoonotic disease caused by the intracellular bacterium A. phagocytophilum. The disease is transmitted by the bite of an infected tick (Ixodes ricinus) and is often confused with Lyme disease, as the signs are similar. Clinical signs are seen one to two weeks post infection and include fever, lethargy, anorexia, swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver and spleen, muscle and joint pain together with bleeding tendencies.