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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Fleas as parasites of the family Canidae

Gerhard Dobler1* and Martin Pfeffer2

Author Affiliations

1 Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology, Department of Virology and Rickettsiology, Neuherbergstrasse 11, D-80937 Munich, Germany

2 Institute of Animal Hygiene and Public Veterinary Medicine, University of Leipzig, An den Tierkliniken 1, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

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Parasites & Vectors 2011, 4:139  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-4-139

Published: 18 July 2011

Abstract

Historically, flea-borne diseases are among the most important medical diseases of humans. Plague and murine typhus are known for centuries while the last years brought some new flea-transmitted pathogens, like R. felis and Bartonella henselae. Dogs may play an essential or an accidental role in the natural transmission cycle of flea-borne pathogens. They support the growth of some of the pathogens or they serve as transport vehicles for infected fleas between their natural reservoirs and humans. More than 15 different flea species have been described in domestic dogs thus far. Several other species have been found to be associated with wild canids. Fleas found on dogs originate from rodents, birds, insectivores and from other Carnivora. Dogs therefore may serve as ideal bridging hosts for the introduction of flea-borne diseases from nature to home. In addition to their role as ectoparasites they cause nuisance for humans and animals and may be the cause for severe allergic reactions.