Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

Overview of Canine Flea Allergy Dermatitis

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

Signs of flea allergies in dogs include:

Diagnosis of Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

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:

Treatment of Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

Preventative Care

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.

In-depth Information

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnosis In-Depth of Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

Diagnostic tests often are performed to confirm a diagnosis of flea allergy dermatitis and exclude other diseases that may cause similar symptoms. Tests may include:

Treatment In-depth of Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

Treatment for skin infections may include antibiotics, steroids, or antihistamines.

Flea Control Recommendations for Dogs May Include

Optimal treatment for your dog requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up is important especially for flea allergic dogs. Administer as directed any medications prescribed by your veterinarian.

Mark dates on your calendar that treatments and follow-up evaluations are due. Follow the preventative measures recommended by your veterinarian as appropriate for the season of the year and your geographic location.

Contact your veterinarian if you are having difficulty administering prescribed medications to your dog or if the results are not as expected.