Scientists Find That Flea Prevention May Help Protect You From Some Serious Illnesses

What This Means for Pet Owners

So what does all of this have to do with your cat or dog? If you’re not aggressively treating fleas, it could be vitally important to your own health.

“It is possible that one flea could infect a cat, a dog or a human being,” says Dr. Breitschwerdt, adding that humans can contract Bartonella from cats through “flea bites, scratches and potentially bites.”

Fleas are the primary vector for Bartonella. Without them, your cat or dog can’t get infected, dramatically reducing your risk of contracting Bartonella. Bottom line: If your pet is flea-free, there’s a good chance that it won’t pass the Bartonella infection to you.

It’s important to point out that Dr. Breitschwerdt’s findings haven’t established Bartonella as a cause of these diseases — just that it seems to be present in a suspiciously high number of cases. He hopes that ongoing research will pinpoint if and how bartonellosis is involved in systemic inflammatory conditions.

How to Keep Your Pet Flea-Free

When I asked Dr. Breitschwerdt what the single most important thing owners could do to lessen their chances of contracting Bartonella, he didn’t hesitate: “Prevent flea infestations to avoid the cat becoming infected with these bacteria.” Here's how:

Use a monthly flea preventive year-round. To make protection more convenient — and potentially save you money — talk to your veterinarian about a product that prevents both fleas and heartworm disease. And apply year-round flea preventive on your cat — regardless of whether or not your feline is solely an indoor cat.

Track your pet's travels. Pets who are allowed to roam freely may encounter other animals who carry fleas. Whenever possible, keep unsupervised pets indoors or supervise outside access as much as possible.

Bathe your pet. In addition to checking for parasites, regular bathing allows you to scan for skin lesions. Consistent bathing every week or two is especially important during the warmer months, when biting insects are more prevalent.

Join the Conversation

Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!