Fleas from domestic pets are affecting wildlife

"This study is the first to uncover the magnitude and geographic spread of the wildlife occurrences of domestic dog and cat fleas," said researcher Jan Šlapeta.
By Brooks Hays  |  Jan. 8, 2018 at 11:19 AM
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Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Fleas from domestic cats and dogs are affecting wildlife species across the globe, according to new research.

In a new survey, researchers at the University of Queensland found breeding flea populations living among a range of species, including Australian brushtail possums, coyotes, golden jackals and Iberian lynx.

All told, scientists found cat fleas, the most common domestic flea, among 130 wildlife species -- some 20 percent of the mammal species surveyed. Researchers found populations of the less common dog flea living among 31 mammal species.

"Both flea species are commonly reported infesting free-roaming cats and dogs or introduced mammals such as red foxes, black rats and brown rats," Nicholas Clark, a researcher at the UQ School of Veterinary Science, said in a news release.

Because fleas can carry disease-causing bacteria, including the microbes responsible for the bubonic plague and typhus, the urban-wildlife parasite exchange comprises a serious threat.

Researchers suggest their work -- published this week in the journal Parasite & Vectors -- is relevant to the Australian Centers of Disease Control and Prevention's "One Health" initiative, which looks to emphasize the relationship between human and animal health.

Scientists suggest little is known about the movements of fleas between domestic animals and wildlife.

"This study is the first to uncover the magnitude and geographic spread of the wildlife occurrences of domestic dog and cat fleas," said Jan Šlapeta, a researcher and associate professor at the University of Sydney. "We have provided tangible evidence that invasive species contribute to the spread of the most common parasites from domestic pets."

Researchers believe the best way to diminish the presence of cat and dog fleas among wildlife is minimize interactions between wild species and domestic animals.

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