Flea allergy dermatitis is one of the most common allergy in dogs and cats and is caused by flea bites. It is a very itchy disease and predisposes to the development of secondary skin infections. When a flea bites your pet a variety of irritating and/or allergy-causing substances from its saliva are injected into the skin. Pets are not allergic to the fleas themselves. They are allergic to the protein in the flea saliva when the fleas bite an animal, a variety of irritating and/or allergy-causing substances from its saliva are injected into the skin. The bite of only one flea can cause a severe reaction to an alleric. The abdomen and rump are the most commonly affected areas in the dog. These itchy areas may develop oozing scabs. Cats, on the other hand, typically overgroom; they may have hair loss but not develop skin lesions.
- Severe itching
- Chewing and biting of the tail, rump, back legs and occasionally front legs
- Oozing lesions (lick granuloma) from chewing
- Hot spots
- Excessive hair loss
- Small red papules with reddish-brown crusts
The diagnosis of a flea allergy can be made based on the pet’s history, examination of the skin, presence of fleas, and response to treatment. Fleas can sometimes be seen crawling on the dog or cat. Fleas in hiding may be hard to spot, so your veterinarian may examine affected areas looking for flea excrement, also known as flea dirt, which looks like small, black dandruff. To confirm that the particles found on a pet are flea dirt, they can be placed on a wet paper towel and will turn a red or reddish-brown color signifying digested blood. Allergy testing can help determine whether the pet has sensitivity to flea saliva.
Secondary skin infections that develop as a result of flea allergy dermatitis may be treated with antibiotics. In addition, veterinarians may prescribe a short course of steroids to reduce inflammation and itching so that pets can be more comfortable while their skin is healing.
The best prevention for flea allergy dermatitis is to make sure all of your pets are on a flea prevention such as Frontline year round. Bedding, rugs, carpets, and furniture must be cleaned to make sure that there are no flea larvae. Frequent vacuuming can help remove eggs and larvae from the pet’s indoor environment.