Creature Feature
Fleas drink lots of blood: Learn about Anemia

It is hard to imagine that something as tiny as a flea could be dangerous. We all know that fleas can make pets itch. Some of us are all too familiar with the spectacular skin inflammation in a flea-bite allergic pet but many people forget that fleas drink blood and that lots of fleas can drink lots of blood. The physical state of inadequate red blood cells is called ANEMIA.

It is easy to under-estimate a pet’s infestation. Only animals allergic to flea bites will itch from their fleas. This means that the animal that is not allergic to flea bites will not be scratching or losing hair thus the owner may not realize that a heavy infestation active.


The black, pepper-like specks found in the infested pet’s coat are actually bits of blood that have been sucked by the flea and excreted in a neat little package to feed the larval fleas that hatch in the environment. Even if live fleas are not seen, the presence of flea dirt means that live fleas are there.


It takes a lot of fleas to produce enough blood loss to create a life-threatening situation for the host pet but it still happens commonly. The following situations are high-risk for flea anemia:

Very young kittens being raised outdoors or by a mother cat who goes outdoors. Young kittens are very small and do not have blood to spare. Further, they are growing and trying to expand their blood volume; they are too young to effectively groom themselves and remove their own fleas. Flea anemia is probably the #1 cause of death in open household kittens.

Elderly cats that go outdoors. The elderly cat is often debilitated from other metabolic problems. Grooming is less efficient, plus the older cat is just not strong enough to withstand much blood loss.

Outdoor puppies. Their situation is similar to that of the kittens’, as they are too small to effectively groom and try to grow in the face of ongoing blood loss.

Eventually, the weakness catches up with these animals and they die.


There are still many people, who unfortunately believe that fleas simply go with pet ownership, that there is no way to avoid them. In reality, fleas have been optional for decades with flea control methods achieving higher levels of convenience and safety each year.

The days of sprays, powders, and foggers are largely gone, supplanted by pills and spot-on preparations (such as Frontline, Revolution, Nexgard, Trifexis & Bravecto). No pet needs to have fleas in the 21st century; an owner has his or her pick of safe and effective products.


Dr. Dan Meakin is the owner of All Creatures Animal Hospital, 1894 Ohio Pike in Amelia. Call 513-797-PETS (7387).