Flea allergy dermatitis – this is the most common skin condition that vets see on domestic dogs. That means there’s a lot of dogs out there who experience an allergic reaction to flea bites.
Is your dog one of them?
What Causes a Flea Allergy in Dogs?
Both dogs and cats can have an allergic reaction to a flea bite, and the cause is actually the saliva of the flea.
Dogs that have a sensitivity to the compounds in the saliva will have a reaction that can range from mild to severe, and the time it takes for a reaction to start happening can vary from only 15 minutes or so after being bitten, to 2 days later. Just like people who have allergies, the degree of severity of the reaction varies between individuals.
Dog Flea Allergy Symptoms
The symptoms that a dog with a flea allergy will show become obvious very quickly – excessive scratching will alert you to the irritation your dog is feeling, and when you run your fingers along the skin under her fur, often at the base of the tail and around the neck area, you’ll likely feel scabbing and inflamed skin. Needless to say that the ongoing scratching of these irritated areas by your dog can lead to infection if relief, treatment and flea control isn’t undertaken as soon as possible.
While tackling the flea problem to rid your dog and home of fleas, providing relief and treatment to any inflammation and sores that have occurred is important. Warding off infections is paramount, as is reducing the itchiness and discomfort your dog is feeling during this time.
Severe cases can be treated through various vet-administered medications, with severely affected dogs sometimes provided with steroid based medications to bring fast relief to the inflammation. If an infection is diagnosed, antibiotics might be prescribe.
Your vet will be able to determine if your dog is suited to this sort of treatment, or if he needs it at all, and will also explain the other options you have.
Something that can surprise people is that they might not see any fleas at all on their dog who is having an allergic reaction to fleas. As the MSD Vet Manual states, this is because dogs who are experiencing a severe reaction can be grooming themselves so excessively, that fleas can be difficult to see on the dog. It’s only when you use a fine toothed flea comb that you’ll start to see the evidence of fleas.
How can you avoid your dog getting flea allergy dermatitis?
Prevention being better than cure could not be more apt when it comes to this problem. Quite simply: if you can keep the fleas away, then your dog won’t get the allergic reaction.
That means people who have flea allergy dogs need to be even more vigilant when it comes to flea prevention, because it only takes one bite for a dog’s skin to flare up into massive discomfort, then it snowballs quickly.
So by maintaining a strict flea prevention schedule with a product that you know works for your dog, whether that be a flea control collar, a monthly topical treatment, a flea tablet – whatever works for you – then you can avoid having your dog suffer from this distressing allergy.
What to do if your dog is allergic to fleas
When people are allergic to something, the best course of action is of course to completely avoid the allergen. This can be easier said than done, depending on what it is!
So the same principal applies to dog allergies. A dog who is allergic to a certain food would not be given that food, thus avoiding the allergic reaction. Using that principal, the best cure for a flea allergy is naturally to not have fleas on or anywhere near your dog. This goes into the category of “sounds easy in theory” – but it doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful.
A dog with a flea allergy is going to cost you in the long term if they are repeatedly exposed to fleas: vet visits, medications, not to mention the discomfort the poor dog experiences.
Stopping the flea cycle and then being extremely proactive with flea prevention is the #1 way to avoid your dog suffering from flea allergy dermatitis. That means keeping on top of flea treatments, and finding the product that absolutely works on your dog.
Remember, it only takes one flea bite to trigger dermatitis in sensitive dogs, so a 100% flea prevention strategy is mandatory if you want to avoid dealing with this condition.