Fleas are a common annoyance to many dog owners, but these small pests can be a much bigger problem when a dog may be allergic to fleas. Recognizing if your dog has a flea allergy and knowing how to treat that sensitivity is essential to keep your pet comfortable and minimize the risk of more severe allergic reactions or complications.
Symptoms of Flea Allergies
It is normal for a dog to itch when bitten by a flea, as a flea’s saliva will activate natural histamine reactions and cause a minor irritation. A severe flea infestation can cause even more dramatic reactions, but when a dog has severe reactions to even simple flea bites, it may indicate an allergy. This is called flea allergy dermatitis, and can show a variety of symptoms, including:
- Red skin that may show small bumps or rashes
- Hot spots of severely inflamed skin that may bleed or show other abrasions
- Constant scratching, rubbing, biting, or nibbling, especially on the hindquarters
- Bare patches where the dog’s fur may be bitten or rubbed off
- General restlessness or discomfort, especially when laying down or sitting
Treating Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Before choosing aggressive flea treatments – which could cause a dog with inflamed or broken skin more pain or infection – it is important to have a flea allergy properly diagnosed. Because these symptoms could also indicate other skin conditions, allergies to chemicals, or even food allergies, a veterinarian will examine the dog carefully for signs of fleas. Skin tests and blood tests can also be helpful to confirm flea allergy dermatitis, and with the vet’s expertise, it is possible to choose from different treatment options to provide the best relief. Treating a dog’s flea allergies often includes:
- Topical therapy with soothing shampoos or rinses to relieve irritation and itching
- Oral medications or injections to quickly kill fleas on the pet
- Steroids administered orally or through injections to reduce itching
- Antibiotics to safeguard against secondary infections from compromised skin
Exactly which treatments will be most effective will depend on the animal’s overall health and flea sensitivity, the severity of the allergic reaction, and any other medications or treatments the dog may be on that could interact with flea treatments.
Getting Rid of Fleas
The best way to minimize a dog’s flea allergy is to prevent fleas from biting the dog at all, which means removing fleas from the dog’s environment to eliminate the bites that cause the allergic reaction. To do this…
- Use preventative drops, dips, powders, collars, or other ways to keep fleas off the dog, but choose products that will not irritate an existing skin infection or cause interaction problems with other medication or treatments the dog is receiving.
- Vacuum frequently to remove fleas, including cleaning upholstered furniture, draperies, and washable rugs, as well as along baseboards and in flooring cracks. Remove rugs and accents such as decorative pillows if possible to keep fleas from taking refuge in those spaces.
- Wash the dog’s bedding and toys frequently, in as hot of water as possible, to clean and sterilize the materials. If possible, choose washable furniture covers and pet beds so they can also be cleaned regularly.
- Use outdoor flea treatments to get rid of these pests from a dog’s kennel, run, play spots, or favorite shady areas in the yard. Trimming shrubbery and plants and keeping the lawn tidier will also help remove hiding spots for fleas and other biting pests.
When combatting flea allergy dermatitis, it is best to take as many preventative steps as possible, as well as seek the guidance of a veterinarian to properly treat the allergy and minimize complications from additional skin infections. By staying alert to your dog’s reactions and working to keep fleas away, you can keep your pet more comfortable and avoid the misery that a severe allergic reaction can bring.