Dog Flea Allergy Dermatitis
From Pet Health Learning Center
Dog Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Your dog may encounter a number of problems in its lifetime; dog fleas and flea allergy dermatitis could be one of them. Flea Allergy Dermatitis is considered the most common of canine skin disorders. It occurs in dogs that have an abnormal sensitivity to the saliva that a flea injects into the skin whenever it sucks in blood. With the intravenous application of flea allergen, dogs respond by showing signs of inflammation and irritation over the bite area. It causes intense itchiness over the affected area resulting to hair loss and skin lesions. Common occurrence of this form of allergy is during warm months and seasons, though it may last all year round especially in flea infested environments. Oddly enough, most dogs with flea allergy have very few fleas.
What are fleas?
Fleas are among the most bothersome forms of parasites that your dog may encounter. It is a bloodsucking insect that lives with a 6 to 12-month life cycle. Its life span is greatly influenced by environmental conditions, optimal condition for this insect to thrive, include warm (65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit) and humid areas (75 to 85 percent).
Signs and Symptoms
Severe itching, excessive grooming, chewing and biting of the tail, rump, and legs, oozing lesions, and hot spots are the common signs of Flea Allergy Dermatitis. With more thorough evaluation, affected dogs usually have hairs that appear broken. The presence of crust, erosion's, thickened and darkened skin areas and pimple-like bumps on the skin is a clear indication of the presence of fleas. All of these symptoms require medical attention. Further testing and evaluation may be required to provide basis for diagnosis.
Similar to other canine health conditions, Flea Allergy Dermatitis diagnosis is usually based on history, clinical signs and positive response to flea control. You need to provide a complete medical history of your dog to satisfy the vet's questions about the itchiness, treatment progress and any other concurrent medical conditions involving your pet. Various tests are done to confirm the presence of an allergic reaction to fleas and flea bites and also to rule out other diseases that share similar symptoms to flea allergy dermatitis, such as a food allergies or Sarcoptic mange. Fecal flotation tests may be done to determine the presence of concurrent parasites like tapeworms, which are often transmitted via fleas. Skin scrapings may be examined under the microscope to detect the severity of the condition, as well as the presence of fleas and other parasites such as mange mites.
Unfortunately in some cases, the scratching and biting that a dog does because of flea irritation can also lead to a "hot spot" (acute moist dermatitis) or secondary bacterial skin infection (pyoderma) which can both be mistaken for Flea Allergy Dermatitis.
The main purpose of treating Flea Allergy Dermatitis is to alleviate your dog's reaction to the flea allergens.
First, you need to prevent your dog from being bitten by a flea in the first place. The use of a natural flea repellent is highly recommended.
Next you will need to totally eliminate any fleas from your pet's environment. Professional pest exterminators may be sought to fully eliminate the fleas in your home. You need to have all other pets in your household tested for fleas to also keep them from getting infected.
Secondary skin infections caused by the flea allergy, such as hot spots, should be treated accordingly with antifungal ointment.
Depending on the severity of your dog's condition, your veterinarian may recommend the use of topical ointments, medicated shampoos, steroids, antihistamines, antibiotics and fatty acid supplements to hasten the healing of lesions on your dog's skin. Allergy shots or hypo-sensitization is usually reserved for severely afflicted animals.