Flea allergy dermatitis is a very common skin complaint in dogs. Fleas are little parasites that need a blood meal to survive, and your dog may end up being the donor.
Flea bites are itchy, but some dogs are allergic to fleas and the flea saliva causes an extreme reaction in their skin. The result is severe itching and inflammation. These poor dogs are very uncomfortable, and can damage their skin as they bite and chew at themselves. Bacteria can then infect the broken skin which leads to moist open wounds, and that makes them even more uncomfortable.
Flea allergy usually affects specific areas of your dog’s body. You are most likely to see hair loss and reddening of the skin over his rump, along his tail, and on the outside of his back legs. These areas are easy for him to reach with his teeth, so he will often nibble at his itchy skin. While you may not see any fleas, you may see small black grains of what looks like sand; these are flea droppings and if you mix them with a little water on a white piece of paper, they will turn blood red. Your dog’s symptoms, the presence of flea droppings and the parts of his body that are affected are usually enough to warrant treatment for flea allergy.
As with any allergy treatment, there are two parts to managing this uncomfortable skin problem in dogs. Firstly, treat the red itchy skin, and secondly, stop the exposure to the allergen.
If your dog’s skin is red, raw and infected, you should have him examined by your veterinarian, who can prescribe medication for him. Treatment includes antibiotics to kill the bacteria, and anti-inflammatories to take away the redness and itch.
Flea control can be difficult. It’s not enough to treat your dog for fleas, because most of them are in the environment as eggs, larvae and pupae. In fact, the fleas on your dog are only 1% of his problem.
Insecticidal shampoos aren’t effective enough to control the fleas on a sensitive dog. You are much better off using a mild soothing shampoo to bathe him, and then using a longer lasting product such as Frontline or Advantage to kill his fleas.
The main part of flea control is the environment – your dog’s bed, your carpet, and the dirt in your backyard. You can certainly spray chemicals to kill fleas and their eggs in these places. However, it is safer and often more effective to actually interfere with the lifecycle of the flea. Products are available to stop flea eggs from hatching, so they won’t develop into adults which will bite your dog.
Your dog needn’t suffer from the discomfort of flea allergy dermatitis. Treat his itchy skin, and control those fleas and he’ll enjoy life so much more.