Normally, fleas are just an occasional nuisance to your cat, but left unchecked they can cause serious health problems such as anemia, especially in sick, very young or old felines. Flea anemia is a serious condition, but the majority of cats who contract it recover with proper treatment.
Symptoms of Flea Anemia
The most noticeable symptoms of anemia are listlessness, loss of appetite, weight loss, dark, sticky stools, rapid breathing and pulse, and sleeping more than usual. Cats who are heavily infested with fleas scratch frequently and bite at their skin to alleviate itching from flea bites. Fleas will also be visible in the fur close to the skin.
Cats at Higher Risk for Flea Anemia
Elderly cats, kittens or cats who are sick are more at risk for developing anemia if infested with fleas. Because their immune systems are weakened (or, in the case of kittens, underdeveloped), they are more susceptible to the effects of blood loss from flea bites. Cats who have suffered a severe injury resulting in blood loss, or cats that have recently undergone surgery and required a blood transfusion, are also at greater risk of developing flea anemia.
Steps to Take if Flea Anemia is Suspected
If you think your cat has become anemic from fleas, take it to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet will be able to diagnose whether your cat is anemic and the probable cause of his condition. Your vet will recommend the best actions to take to treat your cat's problem and prevent its recurrence.
Ways to Prevent Flea Anemia
The best way to prevent flea anemia is to give your cat regular flea prevention medication, such as Advantix or Hartz. For kittens too young to receive flea medication, keep them indoors and out of contact with animals who go outside regularly. Feeding your cat an iron-rich, meat-based diet is the second most important measure you can take to prevent flea anemia. You can also choose to supplement your cat's diet with B vitamins from sources such as brewer's yeast.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Madeline Masters works as a dog walker and professional writer. In the past she has worked as a fitness columnist, fundraising copywriter and news reporter. Masters won two Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Awards in 2009. She graduated from Elizabethtown College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.