There are millions of us dog people who have gone off to the vet, concerned about itching and scabbing skin.
The diagnosis is often flea allergy dermatitis.
It’s really common and thankfully, easily treated and prevented most of the time.
First: I noticed that he was constantly scratching, licking and trying to bite himself – particularly around the base of the tail.
When you feel that area, it’s almost always a rough, flaking scabby skin and yes – it’s incredibly itchy for a dog.
After consulting with my vet, we confirmed flea allergy dermatitis.
And no: you don’t necessarily know there are fleas around. Even keeping a strict flea control schedule isn’t always enough to prevent it. In sensitive dogs, it can take JUST ONE FLEA BITE to stimulate a skin reaction, leading to dermatitis.
So do keep up with your chosen flea control treatments.
In my case, I use monthly topical treatments but I apply it every 25 days, instead of waiting the full month.
Here are some other symptoms of flea allergies to look out for:
- Red and irritated skin
- Bumps or scabs on the skin (check the tail area and around the neck especially)
- Excessive licking/chewing
- Loss/thinning of hair or fur (from excess grooming)
- Inflammation or infection of the skin
If you suspect your dog has a flea allergy then seek veterinary care for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan – speedy vet care is paramount to avoid infections.
So what can you actually do into the future if you know your dog is going to be prone to flea allergy skin conditions?
- Regular grooming and bathing with flea-specific products
- Treating your home, bedding and yard for fleas (this environmental flea control is critical)
- Using preventative medications
By taking a proactive approach to flea control, you can help your dog live a happier, healthier life free from the discomfort of flea allergies.
Things to Know About Flea Allergies in Dogs
When a dog is allergic to fleas it means that their immune system is overreacting to the saliva of the flea when it bites.
This can cause a range of symptoms as I mentioned earlier.
It’s important to know that not all dogs are allergic to fleas
Even those that are can have varying degrees of sensitivity.
Some dogs may only experience mild itching and irritation that is temporary. Others can develop severe skin problems that require veterinary intervention.
Flea allergy dermatitis can be confused with other skin conditions like food allergies, bacterial infections or just dry and flaky skin.
That’s why it’s so important to consult with a vet who can properly diagnose your dog’s condition.
The internet is not a diagnostic tool for this or any other health problem.
Checking your dog for fleas if you suspect flea allergy dermatitis
Look for signs of fleas on your dog.
Fleas are tiny, brown jumping insects that are often found around the base of the tail, on the underside, legs and around the neck. BUt if there are a lot of fleas, they can be anywhere. Including on YOU.
If you see fleas on your dog, it’s a pretty good indication that they are the cause of your dog’s allergies.
If you don’t see any fleas then your vet might recommend a flea comb test.
This involves combing your dog’s fur with a special flea comb to collect any fleas or flea dirt.
Flea dirt is the feces of fleas, and it looks like tiny black specks.
If your dog has flea dirt on their skin, it’s a sign that they have fleas, even if you can’t see them.
Flea dirt will also be visible on your dog’s bedding, on the floor and so on. If you have light colored surfaces then you’ll easily see flea dirt. This is often the first sign of fleas in the environment.
Another way to diagnose flea allergies is through a skin test. Your vet will inject a small amount of flea saliva into your dog’s skin to see if they have an allergic reaction. If your dog is allergic to fleas, they will develop a raised, red bump at the injection site within a few minutes.
Treatment Options for Flea Allergies in Dogs
1. Flea Control: The first step in treating flea allergies is to get rid of the fleas on your dog and in your home (indoors and outdoors). This can be done through regular use of flea prevention products such as flea collars, sprays, shampoos, and topical treatments.
2. Medications: In some cases, your vet may prescribe medications such as antihistamines, steroids, or immunotherapy to help manage your dog’s allergic reactions. These medications can help reduce itching, inflammation, and other symptoms associated with flea allergies.
3. Bathing: Frequent bathing with a gentle, hypoallergenic shampoo can help soothe your dog’s skin and remove any allergens that may be present. It’s important to avoid using harsh or scented shampoos that can irritate your dog’s skin.
4. Dietary Changes: Some dogs may benefit from a diet that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and improve skin health. Your vet can recommend a suitable diet for your dog.
Ongoing Prevention of Dog Flea Allergy
Keep your dog clean and well-groomed. Regular baths and brushing can help remove fleas and their eggs from your dog’s coat.
Using a flea comb can help you identify and remove fleas before they have a chance to bite and trigger an allergic reaction. But these combs are only useful if the number of fleas is relatively low.
Keep your home and yard free of fleas. Vacuuming regularly, washing your dog’s bedding, and treating your home and yard with flea control products can help reduce the flea population in the environment.