Kittens with Fleas are at risk for anemia, tapeworm, irritation of their skin, Hemobartonella (infectious anemia), and more which can lead to death. Flea treatment for kittens, however, must be SAFE! In simple terms, fleas use the kitten's blood to ripen their eggs and anemia results more quickly in a kitten's small body than in an adult cat or dog, although I have seen many adult cats with severe anemia from fleas.
Kittens with fleas also develop tapeworm because fleas are the hosts for tapeworms meaning that fleas play a necessary role in the life cycle and reproduction of a certain type of tapeworm.
Briefly, the adult form of the tapeworm Dipylidium caninum lives in the cat's intestines. Eggs are passed in the cat's feces. An immature form of a flea eats the tapeworm eggs. The eggs develop into immature forms of tapeworms while inside the flea. When a cat eats the flea while grooming or biting/licking an itchy area, the immature form of the tapeworm is released from the flea. This immature tapeworm develops into an adult while in the cat's intestine and the life cycle is completed.
If a kitten or cat has tapeworms, then not only should they be treated for tapeworm, but treated for fleas also. Otherwise, they can be reinfected.
Cats may be infected with other types of tapeworms in which the larval form of the parasite can be found in rodents, pigs, or fish, instead of fleas, although infection via fleas is most common. Kittens with fleas can also acquire a different form of anemia other than that just from straight blood loss to the fleas and that is feline infectious anemia which is caused by an organism called Hemobartonella. It is transmitted to kittens/cats when a flea bites them. Hemobartonella is a blood parasite that sits on the outer surface of the red blood cells. This tiny parasite infects the red blood cells and causes them to become fragile and to break apart inside the body.
Hemobartonella can also cause a reaction in which the cat's own body sees its own red cells as foreign due to the parasite being on the red blood cell. The reaction to this is for the cat's body to attack its own red blood cells with its defensive mechanisms.
You can see how kittens with fleas that develop anemia can become seriously ill. Flea prevention is therefore so, so important for cats and kittens. However, there are safe flea treatments for kittens with fleas and there are deadly ones. I hate to say this; I hate to even think that it's true, BUT ....there are many products on the market for kittens with fleas and for other conditions of cats that are actually very toxic to cats and kittens.
PLEASE do not buy your flea products anywhere but from a veterinarian. Or actually, buy them anywhere you would like, but do not buy anything without consulting your vet as to its safety for cats and kittens. I have seen cats and kittens die from flea products sold by one of the very largest manufacturers of flea products in the world.
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