While all dogs scratch themselves from time to time, prolonged itching and missing patches of fur or hair can be signs of something a bit more serious: flea allergy dermatitis. Also known as flea bite hypersensitivity, this condition — the most common skin disease in dogs — occurs when your dog suffers an allergic reaction to flea saliva after being repeatedly bitten by fleas. While it's always a good idea to take your dog to the vet when they have a health issue, here's what you need to know to figure out if your dog is suffering from flea allergy dermatitis and what flea allergy dermatitis treatment involves.
What are the symptoms of flea allergy dermatitis?
Many dogs will have red skin and patches of fur or hair missing from repeatedly scratching, rubbing, or biting on their skin. These patches of inflammation may turn into “hot spots" or infected sores, and are usually found on your dog's legs, hind end, and tail.If your dog is showing these symptoms, the easiest way to determine whether or not the itching is flea related is to go through your dog's coat with a flea comb and look for the culprits themselves. Fleas are good at hiding, so also look at their skin for black specks, which is flea poop. That being said, it doesn't take a full-blown infestation to cause flea allergy dermatitis—just a few biting fleas can be enough for highly sensitive dogs.
What is the treatment for flea allergy dermatitis?
If you think your pet is suffering from this condition, it will be important to see your veterinarian for an appropriate treatment plan, which may include:
• Topical therapy, such as a soothing shampoo to reduce the skin's irritation
• Steroids to help break the itch-scratch cycle
• Antibiotics to help with any secondary skin infection or hotspot area
• Vacuuming and cleaning your house and anywhere the dog or other pets spend time
Why using flea prevention matters
Fleas are common year-round, though warmer, humid times of year are when they are most prevalent. What's more they are not picky when it comes to the age or type of dog they infest. Having your dog, and other pets in the home, on an effective flea preventive year-round can reduce the incidence of flea allergy dermatitis.