5 Things to Know about Flea Allergy Dermatitis

5 Things to Know about Flea Allergy Dermatitis
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Flea bites cause different reactions in different dogs. If your dog is showing a bit more discomfort than usual after a flea bite, they may be suffering from flea allergy dermatitis.

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 fleaโ€™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. Dogโ€™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 flea-free environment

Once you have determined that your pet has FAD, flea control is key. After removing all fleas from your petโ€™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 physical examination.

Once flea allergy dermatitis has been confirmed, treatment can begin in three parts.

1. Removal of fleas

It is highly important to eliminate all fleas from your dogโ€™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 petโ€™s skin condition

Steroids or antihistamines may be prescribed to combat your dogโ€™s reaction to flea bites and to curb itching. Your vet will also recommend treatment for any sores or lesions on your petโ€™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.

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Flea Allergy Dermatitis

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