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
1. Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is an allergic reaction to
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 a
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
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.
Treatment for Flea Allergy Dermatitis
If you suspect your dog may be allergic to flea bites, your veterinarian
will likely run a few tests to make sure that flea saliva is
the cause of the skin
condition. Your vet may want to rule out other allergens
that produce similar allergic reactions to FAD, such
as food, inhalants, other
parasites, and drugs reactions. This can be done via a blood
test or a more invasive series of injections. Your vet will
also examine and measure any lesions found, and perform a
Once flea allergy
dermatitis has been confirmed, treatment can begin in
1. Removal of fleas
It is highly important to eliminate all fleas from your dog’s
hair to prevent future bites. Even one or two lingering fleas
can prolong symptoms. Flea
removal products come in the form of combs, shampoos, topical
treatments, and oral products, and are widely available.
Eradicating the source of fleas as well, whether it is in your
home or yard, is crucial to
preventing future infestation. Make sure to treat carpeting,
toys, bedding, and outdoor areas that house fleas and eggs.
2. Treatment of your pet’s skin condition
Steroids or antihistamines may be prescribed to combat your
dog’s reaction to flea bites and to curb itching. Your vet will also recommend
treatment for any sores or lesions on your pet’s skin. And if a
bacterial infection has occurred, antibiotics may be needed.
3. Continuous prevention of reinfestation
Keeping your dog away from fleas is crucial to ensuring their
comfort and safety. Vigilant flea control and quick action if
fleas come back are recommended. Flea treatment products such as flea
collars, shampoos, oral products, and topical treatments can
help keep your dog safe from fleas.
Some pet owners opt for desensitization therapy, a type of allergy shot that
involves injecting small doses of flea antigens over an
extended period of time. Desensitization therapy does not cure
the allergy, but it can help some dogs with severe allergies
react less to the flea antigens.
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.