Fleas are a nuisance to any pet. But if your dog has an allergy to flea bites, then the pain and discomfort that these parasites bring increases significantly. Learn why some pets react differently to flea bites, and more key facts about flea allergy dermatitis
1. Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is an allergic reaction to flea saliva
Pets who suffer from flea bite allergies are actually reacting to antigens in the flea’s saliva. Fleas mouthparts have evolved to break through the skin of mammals. When a flea bites your dog for its blood meal, it also leaves a small amount of its saliva under the skin. A dog who is allergic to fleas reacts to these compounds, and has a more severe action to the flea bite, including increased itchiness.
2. Just one or two fleas can cause symptoms
Flea bites cause itching and irritation on any dog, whether they have an allergy to flea saliva or not. But if dos are not allergic to fleas, they may not feel symptoms until they have many bites. Dogs with flea allergy dermatitis, however, have more pronounced symptoms with the presence of just one or two fleas. One flea bite can cause constant itching for days.
3. Scratching exacerbates FAD symptoms
Allergic pets who are bitten by fleas will groom, bite, and scratch their skin constantly. This creates a poor environment on the already irritated skin, making it more difficult for the skin to heal. Dog’s who react in this manner may end up with secondary infection, lesions, and hair loss.
4. Vets may test for other allergies when diagnosing FAD
If your dog has a skin condition, your vet may also test for allergies to food, drugs, inhalants, and other allergens that have a similar response as flea allergy dermatitis. After a physical exam, your dog will undergo a blood test or a series of injections to test the reaction to several types of allergens.
5. The best treatment for flea allergy dermatitis is a flea-free environment
Once you have determined that your pet has FAD, flea control is key. After removing all fleas from your pet’s hair, you must also eradicate fleas and flea eggs from your home and yard. Shampoos, sprays, topical treatments, collars, and oral products can help keep fleas from taking up residence on your pet again. The goal is to keep fleas away to protect your dog from the pain and discomfort of flea bites.
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.