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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Flea Allergy Dermatitis View In Cats

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Flea Allergy Dermatitis is the most common allergy in dogs. Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction of both the immediate and delayed type. Itching begins immediately and tends to persist long after fleas have been eliminated. One bite is enough to trigger this reaction.


Flea allergy dermatitis is characterized by severe itching with inflamed skin and small solid rounded red bump rising from the skin that is usually less than 1 centimeter in diameter (pimple). These bumps are found where the fleas are heavily concentrated, over the rump and base of the tail, under the legs, and on the groin and belly. Dos will chew and rub these areas. Hair falls out and skin becomes dry and scaly. In some cases, the skin breaks down and develops raw areas that become crusted and infected. In time, the skin becomes thick and darkly pigmented.


It is caused by a hypersensitivity reaction to one or more substances in the saliva of fleas.


The diagnosis can be suspected by finding fleas on the dog and seeing the characteristic skin rash. Check for fleas by standing your dog over a sheet of white paper and brushing the coat. White and black grains of sandy material that drop onto the paper are flea eggs and feces. An allergic response to flea saliva can be confirmed with an intradermal skin test.


The majority of dogs with flea allergy dermatitis can be cured by eliminating fleas on the dog and controlling fleas in the environment. All pets in the household, even those who are not affected, must be treated simultaneously to eliminate fleas.

Antihistamines and/or corticosteroids may be required for 2 - 3 days to control itching. A medicated or oatmeal bath may also help to make your dog more comfortable. Pyoderma requires topical and oral antibiotics. Seek veterinary attention for these problems.

If your dog or cat has scratched or chewed himself bloody, he will need medical attention right away. However, in most cases, first aid is all that's needed until you can get rid of the fleas.


The monthly application of a flea-control product such as Frontline Plus, Advantage, or Advantix will kill adult fleas before they bit the dog. Program inhibits re-infestation by preventing fleas from reproducing. The combination of Program with Frontline or Advantage should eventually eliminate fleas, but for a more rapid response it may be necessary to treat the environment.

Flea infestations can be effectively controlled and possibly eliminated through the use of a high quality - low toxicity flea shampoo. Look for top quality brands such as Bio-Groom and Tropiclean when shopping for flea shampoo. Off brands tend to contain low quality chemicals that can cause high residual levels of toxicity in the dogs skin. As you bathe the dog you will see fleas falling off in the tub, this is normal.

Avoid the use of flea collars as they have a reputation of being ineffective at best.

In the house spray carpets, dog beds, baseboards, cracks, and crevices with an insect growth regulator or flea control product with a quick kill ingredient designed for indoor use. Be sure to closely follow the directions to maximize safety.

In the yard, use a spray designed for outdoor use that contains an insect growth regulator. An alternative method is to use nematodes - microscopic worms that prey on the larvae and pupae of many insects including fleas. Clear the yard of leaves and other debris.


Please contact your veterinarian if you need assistance with this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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