The Basics on Flea Allergy Dermatitis (What to Look For) | Herepup
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The Basics on Flea Allergy Dermatitis (What to Look For)

When a flea bites a dog, the resultant scratching and biting may seem like typical behavior. However, this urge to itch or bite at a spot can indicate something more than a dog seeking relief. It could be a sign of a condition known as flea allergy dermatitis.

Behind the Flea’s Bite

The bite of a flea is more than just a chomp on a dog’s flesh - it is a conduit to transmit more than 15 antigens from the bug’s mouth and its saliva to your dog’s skin. After the bite, it’s common for a dog to itch at it, much like it may be common for us to itch at a mosquito bite. However, if the itching persists, it’s because he has a hypersensitivity to one of the flea’s salivary antigen.

This hypersensitivity is the driving force behind flea allergy dermatitis. This allergy typically develops when dogs are five years old and younger, but they can develop at any age. If not treated, it is an allergy that can be perpetuated, as fleas love laying their eggs on a host like a dog.

What to Look For When a Dog has Flea Allergy Dermatitis

how to get rid of fleas in dogs

Your dog will provide you with an abundance of clues if he is suffering from flea allergy dermatitis. The most obvious one is seemingly perpetual itching as a means to seek relief. This itching can be accompanied by other alleviation-centered behaviors, such as biting, gnawing, and rubbing or dragging his body along the ground.

A dog’s skin is also a prime indicator of flea allergy dermatitis. A dog that is having severe flea issues may have flesh that is red and inflamed as a result from excessive scratching. This particular condition will be much easier to spot on dogs with shorter coats than dogs with longer coats.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to notice secondary indicators on long-haired dogs, though. Another sign associated with flea allergy dermatitis is the eventual appearance of worn or bald spots on the fur. You may also see various scabs on the dog’s skin in these spaces, which are also caused by excessive scratching.

It should be noted that these symptoms are typically episodic in nature, meaning that the itching may happen in intense spurts. However, these symptoms could become worse as a dog gets older. What’s more, some dogs could develop various behavioral problems such as neurodermatitis if the condition is left untreated.

Be On the Lookout For Fleas

While it is rare for dogs to become desensitized to flea bites if an allergy is developed, it is important that you try to stave off the discomfort for your dog as much as possible. The first order of business here is to go through your dog’s fur to look for fleas and flea dirt. The bugs can be tricky to find, especially on dogs with dark coats or thick fur, but with the proper tools and the proper amount of patience, you’ll be able to catch and remove some of these nasty critters before they inflict more damage on your furry friend.

Keeping the Fleas from Your Dog

There are a wide host of products on the market that are specifically designed to control and even eliminate the flea population on your pooch’s fur. These run the gamut from flea and tick collars to special shampoos. A lot of these products are designed to attack fleas on a cross-generational basis, meaning that they’ll wipe out the eggs and larvae as well as the adults.

Before you decide on a particular treatment, it is always prudent to discuss your options with your dog’s veterinarian. Your vet will break down various metrics about your dog, like age, lifestyle, and environment, to determine the best course of treatment possible. This meeting could ultimately make your pooch’s road to recovery as efficiently smooth as possible.

Help Your Buddy Sooner than Later!

If you think of your dog having fleas as being a minor issue, think again. While the bugs nesting in fur isn’t quite on par with a life-threatening illness, it still provides a strong source of misery for your pooch; one from which he deserves relief. So act on this issue as soon as you can - your four-legged friend will be ever so grateful.


Laura Harris

Dr. Laura Harris is our resident dog health expert. She started to fact-check dog health-related information for HerePup during her internship and contributes since then. Her expertise is in dog nutrition, senior dog care, especially critical care medicine and internal medicine.

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