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Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

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Detecting signs of flea allergy dermatitis in dogs.
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A smiling pit bull wearing a red bandana.

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. 

What Is 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 introduced from flea bites. 

What Are the Symptoms of Flea Allergy Dermatitis?

Flea allergy dermatitis causes a number of symptoms, ranging from uncomfortable to more serious:

  • Red skin
  • Missing patches of fur or hair
  • Repeated scratching, rubbing or biting of the skin
  • “Hot spots” or infected sores, usually located on the dog’s legs, hind end and tail

If your dog is showing these symptoms, the easiest way to determine whether the itching is flea-related is to go through your dog’s coat with a flea comb. Fleas are good at hiding, so also look at your dog’s skin for black specks that could be flea droppings. However, it doesn’t take a full-blown infestation to cause flea allergy dermatitis — just a few biting fleas can be enough to trigger flea allergy dermatitis in highly sensitive dogs.

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An owner checking the red skin on a dog who has flea allergy dermatitis.

What Is the Treatment for Flea Allergy Dermatitis?

If you think your dog is suffering from flea allergy dermatitis, it’s important to visit your veterinarian for an appropriate treatment plan, which may include:

  • Topical therapy, such as a soothing shampoo, to reduce skin irritation
  • Steroids to help break the itch-scratch cycle
  • Antibiotics to help with secondary skin infection or hot spots
  • Vacuuming and cleaning your house and anywhere your dog or other pets spend time to help get rid of fleas

The Importance of Flea Prevention

Fleas aren’t picky when it comes to the age or type of dog they infest. They also hitch rides on pets year-round, though warmer, humid times of year are when they are most prevalent. Keeping your dog and other pets in your home on an effective flea preventive year-round can reduce the incidence of flea allergy dermatitis.

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