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Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

By: Dr. Rosanna Marsalla

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Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common allergy in dogs and is caused by flea bites, specifically the saliva of the flea. It is a very itchy disease and predisposes to the development of secondary skin infections.

Oddly enough, most animals with flea allergy have very few fleas – because they are so itchy, they groom themselves excessively, eliminating any evidence of fleas. However, a couple of flea bites every two weeks are sufficient to make a flea allergic dog itchy all the time. Any animal can become allergic to fleas, although some dogs are more attractive to fleas than others.

Fleas are bloodsucking insects with a life span of 6 to 12 months. This life span is influenced by environmental conditions and can vary from two to three weeks up to a year. Optimal conditions include humidity of 75 to 85 percent and temperature of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity is more important than the temperature. The adult flea spends most of its life on the host, while the immature stages (eggs) are found in the environment.

What to Watch For

  • Severe itching
  • Chewing and biting of the tail, rump, back legs and occasionally front legs
  • Oozing lesions (lick granuloma) from chewing
  • Hot spots on the hips or face, which is severe skin damage from scratching

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