Flea allergy dermatitis is a common cause of itchiness and scratching in dogs, but other medical problems can lead to similar symptoms. Other disorders that must be excluded are: Food allergy
Trauma or other cause of local skin irritation
Cheyletiellosis (a mite infestation)
Otitis externa (ear infection)
Primary keratinization defects
Some pets may have more than one medical problem. For example, scratching or biting due to flea irritation can cause a "hot spot" (acute moist dermatitis) and secondary bacterial skin infection (pyoderma) can follow.
Diagnosis of flea allergy is made based on history, clinical signs and a positive response to flea control.
Treatment of flea allergy dermatitis involves three phases:
Prevention of flea bites. The most important part of treatment is preventing flea bites with aggressive flea control on your dog and in the environment.
Treatment of secondary skin infections. Antibiotics and antifungal drugs may be necessary to treat secondary skin infections triggered by the flea allergy.
Breaking the itch cycle. If your dog is intensely itchy, a short course of steroids may be necessary to break the itch cycle and make your dog more comfortable.
A newer therapy called Oclacitinib (Apoquel) has been very effective in control of itching in dogs with flea allergies.
Use an effective safe flea control product on your dog on a regular basis beginning one month before the flea season starts and continuing up until one month after the flea season ends.
Use frequent vacuuming and carpet cleaning strategies to remove eggs and larvae from the dog's indoor environment. Use a professional cleaning or exterminating service in difficult cases.
See your veterinarian promptly if your dog develops acute skin lesions (acute moist dermatitis) as a result of biting or scratching at fleas. Frequent grooming of your dog with a "flea comb" may be helpful to remove fleas.