Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs
Flea allergy dermatitis in dogs is a common problem, despite all of the recent advances in flea control products. Monthly topical products and products that break up the flea’s life cycle have made it much easier to control fleas. These products do help dogs with an allergy to fleas, but dogs which are sensitive to the bite of a flea continue to suffer an allergic reaction to flea bites with only minimal contact from fleas. If a do is allergic to flea bites, they rarely become desensitized to the bites. This means that they will continue to bite and scratch at themselves if they receive any bites at all from a flea. Flea bite allergies are widespread in dogs.
According to studies, there are over 15 different allergy-causing substances, or antigens, in flea saliva. All of these antigens can produce an allergic reaction if your dog happens to be sensitive to the substance.
In many cases if a dog is allergic to flea bites the problem is compounded by the dog also having an inhalant allergy, meaning there are other allergies at work.
Flea allergy dermatitis appears to affect all dogs, regardless of breed or sex.
Flea allergy dermatitis is a season allergy. Since fleas are most active during warm summer months and in the fall, this is when the allergy is also at its peak. Dogs who have this allergy generally bite at the base of their tail and there is chronic scratching. Even if your dog only has one or two fleas it can lead to your dog having extreme itching. There is usually a loss of hair at the base of the tail. You can also find black or dark red crusty material on your dog. This is dried blood from the fleas. If your dog is having a severe reaction he may itch all over. There may be hair loss all over the body and his skin may be red and inflamed. Hot spots may be present.
Your vet can make a diagnosis of flea allergy dermatitis by checking your dog for the visual symptoms of the problem and looking for fleas. Your vet may also do intradermal skin testing to test for the flea bite allergy.
The primary way to treat flea allergy dermatitis is to prevent fleas from coming in contact with your dog. This may not be entirely possible, but you should try to protect your dog as much as possible from fleas. There are many good topical and oral products for flea control now that keep fleas away, such as Frontline, Advantix K9, Advantage Multi, and others. These products typically kill adult fleas. You may also need to use an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR). These products work on immature fleas and keep them from growing into adults and reproducing. You should talk to your veterinarian about the best flea preventives for your dog.
You will also need to treat your dog’s environment to make sure there are no fleas in the house, yard, or your dog’s bedding. Vacuum your home regularly and empty the vacuum contents away from your the interior of your home. Use diatomaceous earth in your yard to kill fleas. Wash your pet’s bedding in very hot water. Bathe all pets in the home and keep their flea prevention updated.